Bay of Plenty's hospitality sector is struggling in level 2 as customers stay away amid growing fears about the Delta variant outbreak in Auckland.
Delta has changed the game for hospitality and those in the sector are urging people to spend locally, support businesses and get vaccinated.
The comments come as NZME launched The 90% Project yesterday. A high vaccination rate is vital to make our population safe from serious disease, keep our hospitals running and gradually allow our economy and border to open up to the world again.
So NZME titles, including the Bay of Plenty Times and the NZ Herald, have joined forces to work for at least 90 per cent full vaccination against Covid-19 in our eligible population by Christmas.
Luke van Veen of Papa Mo's and Frosty & Fox said there was no doubt the business had lost bookings in the past few weeks in Delta level 2.
People were on edge with the latest news of Aucklanders skipping the borders and the new locations of interest in Mount Maunganui and Tauranga.
"All of a sudden unless they absolutely have to go out people are choosing not to.
"We know the public is scared. It's a serious thing."
The restrictions in a new level 2 created uncertainty and hospitality struggled to operate and on a seven-day cycle.
Van Veen said the more people who got vaccinated the more "we can get back to a better normal".
"We've got to be realistic. We're going to have to live with Delta, which is the sad news.
"We need to be vaccinated in order to get out and minimise the threat.
"Anything that lowers the risk to allow us to operate is positive. It means my staff are safe, my business is safe and my customers are safe."
The sad reality was businesses may be forced to close with continued financial pressures and staff shortages.
"It is now going to become harder. It's going to be a very hard six months when it's meant to be our best six months coming up."
A Tauranga hospitality owner, who did not want to be named, was calling for another push for people to get behind their local businesses.
"It is so miserable at the moment. People aren't spending. They aren't going out.
"This level 2 is so different to the last level 2. People aren't getting behind businesses like last time.
"This lockdown seems to have shaken people. We are not bouncing back."
Businesses can apply for another round of wage subsidies and resurgence support payments but owners say it barely makes a dent in their expenses with some digging into their own pockets to survive.
"I've got $60,000 to $70,000 in expenses and we're getting between $2000 and $4000 from the Government.
"If we continue being this quiet people will close ... It's very scary."
A Rotorua hospitality business owner, who did not want to be named, said the region's shift into level 2 this year was completely different to last year.
The business owner said he was 60 per cent down on the same week last year.
He said the latest resurgence payment was "probably only about a quarter of what we need to keep the business going".
The business owner encouraged people to get out and support local businesses after dozens of events had been cancelled and one day last week nobody came in.
"We ended up closing a bit earlier and pulled in our open sign."
The business has also had to rejig its open hours and "pull them right back".
"We're having to dig into our own pockets just to keep the business going. We traded well last time but now that money has well and truly gone."
Hospitality New Zealand is calling on the Government to clarify the wage subsidy is available to all hospitality businesses with a revenue cut of more than 40 per cent in Delta level 2.
Chief executive Julie White said their members' greatest uncertainty was understanding what threshold MSD will use to determine whether the revenue decline test is met and that the decline is related to Auckland being in level 3 or 4.
She questioned how a cafe could prove a decline due to lower foot traffic because Auckland was in lockdown and said the current alert levels had suppressed all hospitality revenue, everywhere.
"Few people are going out, and the 50-person venue cap forces almost every open business to run at a loss ...
"There is no bounce back this time. Everyone is holding on to their wallets."
Ministry of Social Development group general manager of client services George van Ooyen said no two businesses were the same "which is why it is up to business owners to determine whether they meet the eligibility criteria and should apply".
The eligibility criteria, including the revenue decline test, applies to any business wishing to apply for the wage subsidy, including hospitality businesses, he said.
Restaurant Association NZ chief executive Marisa Bidois said trading at Delta level 2 was far from business as usual and feedback from Bay members was "footfall is definitely lower".
"This is a mixture of reduced out of region visitors, as well as people being slow to return to the CBD and to dine out in general.
"We know from previous lockdowns that there is generally a long tail to a level 3 and 4 lockdown that reduces consumer confidence."
Businesses that can show a 30 per cent drop in revenue while at level 2 can now also apply for another resurgence support payment to help cover rent and other fixed costs.
The payment includes a core per business rate of $1500, plus $400 per employee.
'Excited about summer'
While there was "no point pretending" business was quieter in level 2 one Rotorua business owner was staying optimistic about the future.
Owner of Rotorua International Cocktail Lounge and Eatery in Eat Streat, Tim Smith, said local businesses were "lucky" to only have been closed for a short time unlike some overseas.
"We are optimistic post lockdown. We're really excited about summer."
However, he said there was no denying there were fewer customers out and about this time around.
"It is really quiet. There is no point pretending it's good.
"Our regulars are out in force and everyone who has come in has been really supportive. There is just not the surge there was after last lockdown.
"But it's only for a short time. This is not our normal."
Rotorua Restaurant Association president Sharon Wallace said the industry was hurting "but we are looking on the positive side".
"We want to support our fellow restaurants and bars. We're all in this together."