While Aucklanders supped flat whites in appreciation after 107 days of restrictions, Coromandel hospitality operators are still copping flak from those not vaccinated, and face a summer with staff shortages.
Tairua restaurateur Andrea Johnson was feeling emotional last Thursday after losing six staff - some of them personal friends - when the vaccine mandate became law.
She must give these staff four weeks' paid leave as the business heads into its busiest time in a year when making money in the holiday season is more crucial than ever.
Not only is she paying for the unvaccinated staff to take leave, she is struggling to find replacements.
"It does hurt," she says.
"We can't get staff, and that is the biggest threat to our business."
Like many Coromandel hospitality businesses, the closed international borders have left them unable to hire willing workers on temporary work visas, and with a number of staff choosing not to vaccinate, the losses are heavy at Manaia.
Workers covered by the My Vaccine Pass mandate needed to have their first dose by December 3 and be fully vaccinated by January 17.
This applies to food and drink services excluding businesses that operate solely as takeaways, events, close-proximity businesses and indoor exercise facilities like gyms.
The mandate also applies to on-site tertiary education when red settings in the traffic light system are in place.
The RSA National Office is among those issuing guidance that the traffic light rules are clear.
Whangamata RSA president Geoff March told members that along with other clubs in Whangamata, access will be for fully vaccinated members and guests and from December 3, and non-compliance could result in a $15,000 fine.
He said there were people who believed they could vent at RSA staff: "It has been the negative that have been the most vocal.
"We keep hearing that our forefathers fought for freedom of choice, this is a new term, in those times they fought for pride of country, which entailed conformity and obeying those with the access to knowledge and expertise.
"When the Spanish flu broke out the RSA was involved in helping their local community fight the flu virus, everyone knew the benefit of mass vaccination and the Spanish flu was extinguished in 18 months.
"Being so close to the end of World War I, everyone was willing to obey and do what was needed to help the country recover, and so life could return to normality and prosperity."
The RSA is asking people to alert it to anyone needing help or assistance with their My Vaccine Pass and to let them know "it is not a bother and people enjoy helping where they can".
"This is a business decision and not a personal one, more freedom for those who are fully vaccinated. Please remember, your decision was your own personal decision, so to be able to enter the RSA or Ying's restaurant dine-in you must have a valid vaccine pass to show you are fully vaccinated."
Andrea at Manaia Kitchen and Bar said she "never wanted to discriminate", and is just following the law and keeping her business alive.
"I've chosen to go on as a business. The alternative is too hard. Yeah some people do try, but it never ends well. It's time now to think of ourselves and keep it going.
"I have people who are vaccinated working here needing to feed their families. I've had people hit me up to just do takeaways and open the restaurant at night, but they don't get what it takes to do this food preparation and run the business this way."
Manaia Kitchen and Bar is in the heart of Tairua and has been a mainstay of the town's hospitality industry for many years - open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and remaining open throughout the quietest winter months, and in summer open seven days a week.
Andrea and partner Phillip Mason have operated the cafe, restaurant and licensed venue with live music for 10 years and have always given to the community as sponsors.
"I've been everything to everybody to keep it consistently open because I care about this community and people that come here. There's nothing worse than coming to Tairua and there's nothing open," says Andrea.
"I feel a sense of responsibility to provide. We're always there."
Manaia will be changing its way of operating. It will be essential to book ahead - no locals can expect to just walk in without a booking.
There will be no cabinet food or cafe, the popular eatery in the centre of Tairua is now a restaurant with vaccinated patrons only.
Andrea says it's been extremely emotional.
"Why would you want to work in hospitality and be militant? We're basically going to have to hire bouncers, and I went into hospitality because I love people. I find it really hard to go 'excuse me, where is your mask?' and the Labour government does make it easy for people not to work."
A handful of Waihi and Paeroa hospitality venues said it was ''straightforward'' for hospitality and talked of the high penalty fine they will incur if they don't adhere to the rules.
An owner of a Waihi hospitality establishment, who wished to be anonymous, voiced his dismay at the vaccine passport system.
''At the moment there's a lot of older people just waiting for postal services, they're waiting for their passport to be delivered. A lot of the older people don't have internet or smartphones and will struggle downloading it etc.
''I'm double vaxxed but I'm still waiting for mine, I had issues with my email which was invalid. I phoned five times and finally it's coming by post. Does this mean I am not allowed in my own building?''
He says he'll be working on an honesty basis in the meantime.
Ti Tree Cafe has introduced a little takeaway area at the side of the cafe for takeaway food and coffee; it makes things easier but it was not the vaccine mandate that drove this. Rather, owner Kerri Smith says they introduced the new area during lockdown this year.
''We're kind of trying to keep everyone happy.''
L&P Cafe, Bar and Brasserie stated on its Facebook page it is offering contactless delivery for those who are unvaccinated.
''We don't want you to miss out so we will be offering contactless service. All orders will need to be processed via the Q Jumper app and when you arrive on site, call the shop and we will deliver your order to you out the front.''
- Additional reporting by Rebecca Mauger