Whether it's a smooth espresso martini sipped in a dimly lit booth or a crisp tap beer chugged at a rowdy leaner that you've been craving, from today bars across New Zealand will be allowed to open their doors again.

New Zealand's lockdown period has been particularly tough for bar owners: delayed by 10 days compared to their restaurant and cafe counterparts, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern imposed the later opening date because bars and their standard settings were deemed the biggest risk in spreading coronavirus.

According to the Restaurant Association 2019 Hospitality Report, clubs, bars and taverns make up about 12 per cent of hospitality outlets in the country.

Restaurant Association chief executive officer Marisa Bidois said, based on member feedback, it is anticipated about 20 per cent of the hospitality industry as a whole will not reopen.

There are no new Covid-19 cases today and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said it is his "great hope" that New Zealand has seen the last of the deaths associated with coronavirus.

"While we don't have specific figures for how many of these are bars, we do believe that they have been hit quite hard by the restrictions ..."

And the challenges are not over yet. Bidois told the Herald: "Of course we are delighted to see the clubs, bars and pubs be able to reopen. However it's far from business as usual for them and with the reduced numbers many will need to look at whether it's financially viable to open."

Under level 2, bars must adhere to the same restrictions as other hospitality outlets, meaning no more than 100 patrons at a time, table service only with one server per table and social distancing guidelines of 1 metre between people.

While the likes of more club-focused venues such as the Ding Dong Lounge in Auckland's Wyndham St will remain closed because level 2 restrictions impact profitability, many mixologists and bartenders across the country are forging ahead, shaking and stirring things up to serve the people.

READ MORE: • Restaurants in level 2: Tonight will be 'as busy as December party season'

Heather Garland is part owner of Auckland cocktail bars Deadshot in Ponsonby and Caretaker at Britomart. Both will reopen tonight from 5pm.

Lockdown was certainly a tough time for Garland and her bars. She told the Herald: "We have been pretty worried, especially after watching how this unfolded for hospitality in other countries. We were so relieved to get the subsidies, and we are very lucky to have wonderful and understanding landlords."

When it comes to opening under level 2 restrictions, Garland said they are fortunate because their format has always been seated table service with one server per table, " ... so for us it's not a huge change, we get to continue doing what we have always done but with additional hygiene measures, contact tracing and less tables to allow for social distancing".


Like many businesses impacted by coronavirus, Garland has tried to be agile. While in lockdown, her team created "care packages" that will launch next week.

"We think it's pretty likely people are going to be spending less time in bars for a little while so we have created some ready-to-pour Caretaker cocktails to have at home."

In Dunedin, popular cocktail bar Toast is taking measures to ensure the best set up for customers.

Owner Jamie Hughes said his team are waiting until Friday to reopen and may delay that until next week.

"... our priorities are customer safety, staff wellbeing and following the law over money. We need to get this right," said Hughes, noting some of the bar's booth seating has been blocked off, a table removed to adhere to distancing, an additional staff member brought in to manage customers and a doorbell added to help prevent customer interaction.

Hughes said the lockdown has certainly been financially tough: "We extended our overdraft and paused repayments to the bank. Thankfully we utilised the wage subsidy to keep staff employed and to our knowledge our patrons are safe and well."

Hughes has also explored other ways to encourage business during the challenges of lockdown.

Hughes looked into cocktail home deliveries but was unable to change food control plans in level 4 without a physical inspection. On Facebook, Toast has run a "Build a Bloomfield" cocktail promotion, encouraging followers to vote for ingredients to create a drink inspired by Ministry of Health chief executive-turned-household-name, Ashley Bloomfield.

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Posted by Toast Bar, Dunedin on Thursday, 7 May 2020

In Christchurch, quirky whisky and cocktail bar The Last Word is planning to reopen today but this could be pushed out to Friday, said barman Charles Gillet.

"We want everything to run smoothly and look the part.

"As a whisky cocktail bar, table service was already an integral part of the experience. It's quite a small, intimate space so utilising the space to its full potential is going to be the challenge."

Bar crawl: Where to head for a drink this week

Caretaker and Deadshot:

Serving up tailor-made cocktails in unique, speakeasy-style settings, both bars will be back in business from tonight, 5pm.

• Caretaker: Downstairs, 40 Customs St, Britomart Place
• Deadshot: 45 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

The Jefferson Ringing in their return to service, esteemed whisky bar The Jefferson is hosting a "Prohibition Party" on Saturday night. For $300 for two the ticketed event will feature champagne, oysters and canapes and DJ sets.

• 7 Fort Lane, Auckland CBD

Toast Bar Home of the Ashley Bloomfield-inspired cocktail, keep an eye out for Toast opening tomorrow night.

• 59 Princes St, Dunedin

Parasol And Swing For drinks with a view, head to Parasol And Swing at the Viaduct. Director Adam Neal recommends checking out their seasonal menu which showcases organic and natural wines. You'll also find, for each wine, a signature cocktail using bespoke ingredients.

• Parasol And Swing: 7/204 Quay St, Auckland CBD

The Last Word Open from 4pm today, choose from an impressive range of cocktails concocted from a selection of whiskies from 13 different countries.

• 31 New Regent St, Christchurch Central City

My Bar Opening tonight, head into the city for a cocktail at this boutique CBD hotspot.

• 12 Durham St East, Auckland CBD

Nightflower Wellingtonians will no doubt be keeping tabs on the reopening of this speakeasy-style cocktail bar. From tonight customers can get their fix. Bar staff recommend messaging the bar to book a table or phoning before 2pm to leave a message.

• Level 1/55 Ghuznee St, Te Aro, Wellington