Bay of Plenty businesses have faced hostility and aggression over the vaccine passport system, with one customer "going off" at a pub owner because he did not have a pass.
Under the Government's Covid Protection Framework, people need to show their My Vaccine Pass as proof of vaccination in a range of public settings such as events, hospitality and retail - the latter of which is opt-in.
On Friday, a "hostile" customer started "going off" at Crown and Badger staff, saying he had both his shots but he did not have a vaccine pass.
Owner Jessica Rafferty told him it was the pass they needed in order to let him in - she said some people did not understand the repercussions if they were let in without one.
"If they're happy to pay $15,000 for their beer then that's another story, but that's what it's going to cost us if we let them in and we get caught."
The maximum penalty was $12,000 for a company, or $15,000 for a court-imposed fine for a company if it failed to enforce a Covid Protection Framework requirement, a WorkSafe spokesperson said.
Rafferty said it was "frustrating" that some customers did not understand the rule.
"We have to abide by [the rules] in order to stay open."
Rafferty said "99 per cent" of people were "pretty obliging" to show their vaccine pass.
"They come up to the door and they either forget they need to do it, which is totally understandable, or they're really, really excited to show you."
The Med Cafe owner Jo Brown said one person went into the cafe on Saturday without a mask or vaccine pass and said 'I'm against it' before walking out.
With a protest on Devonport Rd on Saturday, Brown thought there might be more people "trying their luck". Otherwise, she had not faced any backlash over the vaccine pass, and put this down to her cafe being "very much regular-based".
Miss Gee's bar owner Ashleigh Gee said they did not have anyone turn up without a vaccine pass but business was "a lot slower" on Saturday, compared to when it last reopened after lockdown.
"Last time we'd have a line out the front at 10.30pm for people to get in."
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty branch president Reg Hennessy said the industry was facing abuse all over the country but it was in "pockets".
"I don't think it's major - I think most people understand that we don't make the rules. We're just there to comply with them."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley advised businesses to ensure frontline staff felt supported and to have "consistent lines" to say in different situations.
"Managers need to check in with the staff and find fun ways that the team can cope with difficult customers."
Mainstreet Tauranga spokeswoman Sally Cooke said it was doing "the best we can" to ensure members knew they were supported and to ensure the CBD was "a safe place for all".
Tairua restaurateur Andrea Johnson was feeling emotional last Thursday after losing six staff - some of them personal friends - when the vaccine mandate became law.
Johnson, at Manaia Kitchen and Bar, said she "never wanted to discriminate", and was just following the law.
"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've had people say just do takeaways and open the restaurant at night, but they don't get what it takes to do food preparation and run the business this way."
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.
In Rotorua, an unvaccinated regular customer of the Lotus Cafe poured his coffee on the floor after being told to wait outside on Saturday, leaving the owner feeling "afraid to serve the unvaccinated".
Staff member Ivy Pahn said a man shouted at her when she delivered his coffee: "I will not come here any more, I will never come here any more, you cannot treat me like that".
"He starts opening the coffee, it's really hot it's just finished being made and he poured it on the floor."
Lotus owner Amy Nguyen said the man "threw the coffee on the floor to show his resistance in front of other customers".
"This needs to be fixed. We are in the middle, do not ask us to risk our lives."
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had also put forward recommendations about dealing with disgruntled customers. It advised employers to give staff ''wording'' to de-escalate situations or call the police if the situation warranted it.