Auckland's top police boss is working with a Viaduct bar owner who wants to host a "dummy run" party with 100 of his "best friends" when the country to moves to alert level 2.
Leo Molloy's colourful guest list includes Auckland MP Nikki Kaye, former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry and Destiny Church's Brian and Hannah Tamaki, National's deputy leader Paula Bennett, Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere, band members from True Bliss and former MP Hone Harawira.
As Kiwis around the country wait for bars and restaurants to open, Molloy's gathering at Headquarters has provided some insight into what could become the new normal under level 2 in hospitality. Guests will be temperature checked at the door and required to supply their names, addresses and phone numbers. A bouncer will patrol the dance floor ensuring partygoers stand 1m apart, kissing will be banned and police will do spot checks to make sure people follow the rules.
Molloy is liaising with Auckland Central Area Commander Inspector Gary Davey and the liquor licensing agency to ensure the private bash can go ahead on May 15, also the date of the restaurant's third birthday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she will discuss with Cabinet on May 11 whether the country will move from alert level 3 to 2. The Government's Covid-19 website says public venues can open but gatherings must be under 100 indoors and people must keep 1m apart. But Finance Minister Grant Robertson said yesterday that Cabinet was still assessing what can and can't happen at alert level 2.
Guidance was being reviewed and "we'll have a lot more to say about that next week".
Molloy has already sent the invitations and claims to have had 100 responses.
Davey told the Weekend Herald the police alcohol and harm prevention team was "ready to go on the first night" when restaurants, bars, and clubs will open again.
"Headquarters was the first restaurant responsible enough to actually approach the police and say, 'What are your expectations and how can we make this work so people aren't breaching?'. I applaud that and will work with Leo to make sure he can comply and has the best chance of complying so the party can go ahead and not have any issues."
One of Davey's concerns is the challenge of controlling physical distancing.
"They will need to identify and record the names of people that come in. The other issue is maintaining a 1m distance from everybody, which will be more difficult particularly if people have been drinking. I have concerns about anybody on the dance floor keeping their metre distance."
Davey said extra staff will be rostered to make sure business owners comply with the rules and if they don't, police will "shut it down".
If the party goes well, Molloy said the bar would officially open on Tuesday, May 19.
"I wanted to do a dummy run before we can officially open, during Level 2. I have been upfront with the police because I don't want hundreds of complaints saying we are having a massive party and for the police to barge in strong-arming people.
"It's better to invite people I know. With a small number, we can contain problems if they happen. We don't want a crowd of the bogans with their Lion Reds to turn up, riot, and have the place shut down."
Molloy has hired a DJ for the "soft launch" and said he and his bouncers will be patrolling the dance floor to make sure guests don't get too "cosy" and stick to the self-distancing rule. He has also banned public displays of affection.
"Pashing is for young people with throbbing hormones who are determined to share their DNA. I'd like to think the average age on the guest list is 45+ and most of us can moderate our behaviour and wait 'til we get home."
Robertson said that under level 3, there had been an increase in reports of parties. For anyone planning one this weekend, he had two messages: Cancel your plans now and be aware police will be taking a "dim view" of this activity.
"Don't be an idiot, stick to your bubble and everyone will be better off."
Ardern warned this week that if New Zealand moved too quickly through level 3, there would be a higher risk of a second wave.
"This would be horrific for our economy."
People this week flocked to fast-food outlets as we emerged from level 4, after more than a month of home cooking.
Ardern warned those congregating outside takeaway shops to keep their distance.
Molloy said the lockdown had had a severe impact on the hospitality industry. He felt lucky he'd managed to keep all of his 74 staff, thanks to the government subsidy.
Marisa Bidois, chief executive of the Restaurant Association, said its research indicated 20 per cent of businesses would probably close down over the next 12 months, affecting about 10,000 jobs.
Guidelines for the industry under level 2 were still being finalised and the association was working with Worksafe and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.
"Cabinet is going to meet on level 2 next week and we will be involved in writing the guidelines for the industry which the government will adopt and endorse."
Bidois has also collaborated with associations in Australia, the UK, Ireland and Singapore for advice on how to prevent clusters developing.
Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye said she is hoping she'll be able to make Molloy's party but it will depend on her work commitments.
"I've been working 18 hour days to try and assist all those businesses in my electorate. There are about 10,000 businesses - a lot are bars and restaurants and they've been the hardest hit."
Molloy is well known for taking the law into his own hands during the Covid-19 pandemic. On March 23, a pilot with an accent who claimed he was living in New Zealand was barred from Headquarters for refusing to show his passport.
Molloy has also turned away patrons 70 years and over because they were more at risk of catching coronavirus, but he is making an exception for Sir Graham Henry, who is 73.
"He is our HQ patron and is here to raise the bar. He's a well-preserved legend so we'll accommodate over 70s if they are in good working order and don't vote for New Zealand First."
But if you're an "A list" celebrity don't be expecting an invite.
"I don't want to see behind the veneer of botox, Polyfilla and hair dye after seven weeks of neglect. While the rest of us have morphed into hunks, chunks, or drunks I'm picking the A-listers who will have gone into lockdown looking like Barbie and have now come out looking like Cruella de Vil."