Since learning he will be able to open at level 2, Tauranga gastropub owner Ralph Ward has had a song stuck in his head: Welcome Home.
"I'm tempted to put that on a loop and just play it and play it. Welcome home, come on in."
Like hundreds of business owners across Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty, Ward is "waiting with bated breath" to serve his customers again.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday announced shops, barbers, bars, cafes and public parks can open under alert level 2, while domestic travel will open up and national rugby and netball seasons can start again.
But Ardern says physical distancing measures will still need to be maintained, large parties will be banned, sports events will be crowdless, and higher risk elements might be phased in depending on public health advice.
This means gatherings up to 100 people - indoors or outdoors - and travel around the country will be allowed, but maybe not as soon as level 2 starts.
Cabinet will decide on Monday whether the country is ready to move alert levels. The soonest level 2 could begin was Wednesday, but schools would have until the following Monday to prepare to reopen to all students who want to return.
Pillans Point School principal Matt Simeon expected there would still be a few students staying home, such as immunocompromised children, but 90-95 per cent would return.
There would be no assemblies and lots of handwashing, but most aspects of school life would be back to normal.
He expected some things would need to be relearned after seven-plus weeks out of the classroom, likely meaning a "bit of a restart" for the year.
"Our kids can't wait to get back and see their mates again."
Malls will be able to reopen under level 2, but some local centres are seeking to have some rules clarified first.
Those included how the 100-person gathering limit would apply, what contract-tracing systems would be needed, and how table service would work in a food court with multiple eateries.
Papamoa Plaza manager David Hill said he was "thrilled to bits" the mall would be able to reopen - something he believed could have happened equally safely under level 3.
"We have some stressed retailers keen to get the tills ringing again."
He said the mall had more than 600 employees so how the 100-person gathering limit would work was a big question, but the social distancing requirements were fine.
Both Hill and Tauranga Crossing chief executive Lauren Riley said level 3 had been spent deep cleaning the mall.
Riley said the "fogging" protocol - spraying the centre with a sanitising agent - would continue.
She said the lockdown had been a "huge disruption" but everyone was excited to get back to work.
Social distancing in the carpark and seating/service in the food court were being looked into, and she hoped customers would support the changes.
Bayfair was also contacted for comment.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley praised the Government's approach and clear messaging.
"Government has taken the right approach to enable the businesses to make the decision whether they can operate safely."
He said most businesses would still be operating with significantly reduced productivity under level 2, opening with the hope of breaking even and keeping staff employed.
He encouraged any businesses anxious about whether they were meeting all the requirements to use the Government's Covid-19 website.
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said level 2 could not come soon enough.
He said restrictions under level 3 had meant businesses were not able to be productive but the move to level 2 is a big step forward for the economy.
Greerton Mainstreet manager Sally Benning said many businesses in the village had already started rearranging their stores in anticipation of social distancing. She expected all would be able to reopen in some capacity.
Also able to reopen will be services that involve close personal contact, such as hairdressers, but special rules are still being developed.
Melissa Polaschek, who runs her own lash and brow business from home, said high standards of hygiene were already the norm, and any extra measures should be manageable.
She said her clients had already been in touch and she was expecting to be so rushed off her feet she would not be able to get her own hair done for some time.
"I'll be looking ragged but everyone else will be gorgeous."
Kane and Estelle Baigent own Bout Fitness at Mount Maunganui and Papamoa, with six staff and about 480 members across both gyms.
Their facilities have been closed since New Zealand went into lockdown in March but with the Government's wage subsidies, members still paying half or full fees and an understanding landlord, they're in a better position than they thought they would have been.
Estelle said they would reopen under level 2 but would likely ask members to book times rather than just walk in so they could manage numbers, social distancing and regular sanitising.
Ralph Ward, who bought The Phoenix on The Strand with wife Ana-Marie three years ago, said they had offered takeaway coffees under level 3 "but it hasn't been a big money-spinner".
He was excited to be able to reopen the doors soon.
"It will be difficult but we will make sure we are fully compliant."
Ward was also looking for ways to expand the business, such as offering catering, to help bridge the gap of not being able to have 40 per cent of his tables occupied.
Ward hoped to see staff returning to other businesses in the CBD as well, to help boost custom.
He encouraged customers to be "considerate, kind, and understanding" - booking ahead, and not lingering too long to chat so tables could be turned over.
Hospitality New Zealand has said the level 2 rules were too restrictive and would see businesses continue to make losses that may send many to the wall.
The organisation's chief executive Julie White said the rules were workable, but would crush the viability of many businesses, calling for urgent, targeted government support for the sector including extended wage subsidies.
"The Government has talked about a rescue package but where is that? We need it urgently or we will continue to see hospitality businesses closing with the loss of vibrancy from our towns and cities and thousands of jobs being lost."
Mauao, council services
A decision has yet to be made on whether access to Mauao will be restored under level 2.
Dean Flavell, chairman of Ngā Poutiri ao o Mauao - the board that oversees management of the iwi-owned maunga - said that would come after the Cabinet's decision next week.
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said he would be advocating for Mauao to reopen, along with council-owned facilities such as pools and the recycling centre.
"Basically, we will open anything we can."
He said the return of domestic travel would be really important for Tauranga, with many small and medium-sized businesses, including cafes and bars, counting on tourists coming back as well as locals.
"Clearly it has an economic impact when you start taking tables out, but it's going to be great to see these businesses getting going again."
He said the thought of bouncing back to level 3 was "hideous" and people needed to keep applying the recommended health and distancing measures.
Western Bay of Plenty District mayor Garry Webber said while it would be good to get a bit closer to normal, the first priority had to be human health, with business interests coming second.
The council would open whatever services it could, he said.
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive said the announcement regarding being able to travel safely at level 2 was encouraging.
"We are awaiting further detail on the rules for tourism specifically, however, this will be welcome news for many tourism, retail and hospitality operators."
She said domestic visitor spending accounted for 78 per cent of the coastal Bay of Plenty's tourism economy.
"We look forward to welcoming our fellow Kiwis back when the time is right."
In spite of the looser restrictions, the closed national borders and financial struggles for many Kiwis meant some businesses would still have a tough road ahead, Dunne said.
One of those businesses was family-owned luxury car experience 7 Deadly Sins, operated by American expat Jay Thomas and his family.
He supported the Government's actions to prevent the spread of Covid, but said in all likelihood his business would not survive.
"It is what it is."
Life at alert level 2
Life at alert level 2 means we can resume many of our everyday activities — but we have to do so safely.
• All businesses can open if they can do it safely. This will help to get people back to work.
• We can go in-store at local businesses.
• Tertiary education facilities, schools and early learning centres will be open.
• We can travel between regions.
• We can safely connect and socialise with close friends and family.
• We can visit local restaurants, cafes and bars.
• We can return to our regular recreation activities.
• We can celebrate life's important moments with our loved ones such as weddings, funerals, birthdays and anniversaries.
• Small religious gatherings and ceremonies can be held with public health measures in place.