A Wellington bar owner has been rearranging furniture to transform the backpackers bar into a lounge bar when bars are given the green light to reopen from Thursday.

Thursday marks the day bars, clubs and wine bars that open for the main purpose of serving drinks - not food - can finally open their doors after eight weeks.

But some are staying closed because the level 2 rules of customers having to be served, separated and seated are too restrictive for venues where people go to dance.

Matt McLaughlin is under no illusion about the challenges his retro bar and pizzeria Danger Danger faces as the backpacker market he has built up over the last 15 years has disappeared and he tries to attract new customers.


"Effectively it's like owning a shoe shop and then all of a sudden you're selling hot dogs out of it. It's just a totally different concept."

The illuminated dance floor has been moved to make room for the tables which have been spaced out and couches now sit on it as the bar adheres to the new requirements.

The bar will open with its popular quiz night on Thursday - and McLaughlin said it was a promising start with 10 tables already booked.

The bar is licensed to stay open until 4am and would stay open for as long as it could.

Chairs have been placed over Wellington night club Danger Danger's illuminated dance floor to ensure there is enough spacing between patrons, effectively transforming it into a lounge bar.
Chairs have been placed over Wellington night club Danger Danger's illuminated dance floor to ensure there is enough spacing between patrons, effectively transforming it into a lounge bar.

On its quieter days - between Sunday and Wednesday - McLaughlin had made the big call to scrap dinner service and would open from 9pm on those days.

"Will people want to come and have that pub environment in a nightclub? I suggest it is going to be really difficult.

McLaughlin was aware other nightclubs along Blair and Allen St that had decided to hold off opening until level 1 because it wasn't worth it.

"It's not really an option for me, I do need to try and get some income coming through."


Auckland bar owner Mat Jorgensen's two Wyndham St venues, Ding Dong Lounge and Infinity, will remain closed under level 2 because he didn't believe they'd break even.

The majority of the Ding Dong Lounge's income was made at the weekend and with only enough booths to seat 35 people compared to the 250 people the venue could hold, Jorgensen said it meant that even if they were big spenders they would fall thousands of dollars short of breaking even.

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Hip hop night club Infinity was dance oriented, so he said there was no way you could expect people to go there and sit for too long.

"You would need a doorman for every customer."

From his point of view it would have been better if Government had not allowed bars to reopen under level 2, as it may have been more favourable with landlords.

"But the fact we are allowed to open but open as the poor cousins of the restaurant but we can't actually be a bar - and that's frustrating."

Ivan Muir, who runs live music venue Nivara Lounge in Hamilton, said he had decided to hold off until next Friday to open his venue to play it safe.

To ensure patrons were adequately spaced the seating capacity would halve from about 100, to about 40 to 50.

He was also gearing up to offer seated service.

"I don't want to be the bars that causes it to escalate again because we didn't follow protocol. Rules are rules for a good reason."

Freida Margolis wine bar in Grey Lynn was also opening after having no income for the past three months.

Hamilton restaurant and bar owner John Lawrenson earlier told the Herald he planned to not open his two night clubs The Outback or Hood until level 1 because he did not think you could put 100 people in a night club until 3am under level 2 rules.

However, Lawrenson planned to keep his restaurants such as Keystone, The Bank and House open later from Thursday so people could enjoy cocktails or a few wines later in the evening.