"A real bummer."
"Could be worse."
"Stressful, deflating and consuming."
That was a snapshot of how some business owners felt yesterday as they farewelled old customers who did not want to comply with Tauranga's new orange zone status under the Government's mandatory traffic light system.
The Western Bay of Plenty yesterday moved into the new era of vaccine passes and traffic light restrictions with some businesses worried about lost revenue.
But overall the first day appears to have gone smoothly.
CBK general manager Hayley Dixon said she'd had "quite a few" workplace functions cancel because they had unvaccinated people.
Some customers were also trying to find "loopholes" in the traffic light system and asking if they could go in if they had a negative Covid test, she said.
The Nourished Eatery owner Shar McElligott said she was not enforcing the vaccine passes.
She wanted to be supportive and inclusive of everyone. The business could still operate contactlessly under the orange traffic light setting.
People could no longer sit inside and eat, which was "horrible" but "it is what it is".
"We just have to push through and we'll do it until we can't afford to do it any more."
Copenhagen Cones manager Shannon Peters said she had turned away a couple of without a vaccine pass.
"They were upset...but I think they understood."
However she was grateful to be open: "It could be worse."
Peters only wrapped her own head around the system after "lots and lots of research with multiple people".
Astrolabe Bar and Restaurant would today have a bouncer to check vaccine passes to free up staff.
Manager Georgia Haywood did not think the vaccine mandate would cause a problem.
Tauranga Art Gallery front of house staff member Nina Manson said the gallery hosted a school visit yesterday, and parents and teachers were all scanned in.
People who either didn't have the vaccine pass had seen the signs and turned around.
"Which is much better than coming in and [having a confrontation]."
But "stressful, deflating and consuming," was how F45 The Mount co-owner Brett Taylor described the challenging process of moving to orange.
The group fitness gym had lost members and potential members because of the mandate, which Taylor said was difficult.
"We invest everything into our studio, blood sweat and tears. To have these restrictions of course protects us but it's come at a cost and our heart goes out to those that have left us."
He said it had been stressful trying to make sure the safety of the gym community was upheld, saying it had not always been clear around what they could or could not do, but they learned to adapt.
The new system gave a taste of what normal felt like but it was difficult to not to think about the inevitable once the country starts moving around.
"It's only a matter of time before our new 'normal' changes again."
Taylor was grateful for the members and trainers who have supported them.
Sunil Tiwari, manager of the Blackberry Eatery, said business was significantly slower.
"Business is down, which isn't good for us." A few customers had been irritated at the rules, but no one had been a significant hassle.
"I was expecting people to get angry."
Barbershack manager Nikita Davis said the mandate was costing their business significantly.
"Normally we'd be packed at this time."
The business had lost some of its regular clients, including a man who used to come in every week.
He would come in and bring hot chocolates for all the staff.
"We've built a real friendship with him," Davis said.
"It just sucks, but it is what it is."
RE Burger Tauranga manager Daemon Orchard said checking people's passes was just "another part of the job".
Orchard said he would lose "a small percentage" of customers because they were not vaccinated.
Cornerstone Bar and Eatery Tauranga duty manager Ayla Tito said it had been "so far so good" despite not having as much foot traffic as usual.
There were "a couple of regulars" who had been going there for nine years who would not come any more because they had not been vaccinated.
"Us, as a business, do pride ourselves on our regulars and service for those regulars so it's going to be sad to not see them in here any more.
"We also lost a few good staff members as well because of the same thing so that has been a real bummer."
Jiin Kwon, at Mount Maunganui's Deck Chair Cafe, said no one had complained or made a fuss.
Le Chat Noir owner Summer Wu said customers had been "really good" about showing their passes "straight away".
"We just need to scan - we don't need to explain anything to them."
Customers react: 'It feels like a new normal'
"It feels like a new normal."
That was the view of Carol Matthews who was out for brunch with her husband Pete and Annette Cumpstone.
All three found the passes easy to use but getting them very difficult.
However, "It's the right answer", said Cumpstone.
Bev Elphick printed out her vaccine pass and a copy of her driver's licence and laminated them together.
"I'm so proud of it. If someone pinches my card, it's got my mugshot on it."
Shane Jaxson used his vaccine pass at Zest Bakery and Cafe, Subway and the Greerton Library which was "pretty straightforward and really easy".
"I think it's great. We know that we're around vaccinated people so we're safe, especially with Greerton having so many locations of interest lately so it's a bit of worry here but this helps."
Rhonda and Tony were enjoying a trip to the Gana Cafe with their dog Eva.
"I don't think it's [the vaccine passports] going to be difficult for customers," Tony said. "The businesses are going to have the problem."
Both were worried about elderly citizens who might struggle to get their passes.
In her view: "There's this group of older people who are being discriminated against" because of the technology-based pass system.
"They're being very much left behind."
Norma and David Reece used their vaccine passes at Dry Dock Cafe.
David hoped vaccine passes would be an "instigator" for others to be vaccinated.
"I think people have rights of course, but being vaccinated is a community thing, not just an individual thing. We're all in this together."
'Businesses need to cut themselves some slack'
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce Matt Cowley said there were plenty of "teething problems" which was to be expected.
"Businesses need to cut themselves some slack and not feel overwhelmed with meeting all the Government's requirements."
Bayfair Shopping Centre manager Steve Ellingford said it had hired additional security to manage the food court, but the day had gone "really well" and there had been "no issues".
"People have been very compliant - it's really pleasing."
Pāpāmoa Plaza centre manager David Hill said the day had run "very smoothly" and foot traffic was 20 per cent up yesterday on last Friday.
"The people of Pāpāmoa have really taken it on board."
Hill said it was "a huge sigh of relief" that nothing had changed and people had "spent their dollars and enjoyed their meals".
Tauranga City Council commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said the orange setting gave the city more freedoms to go to hospitality and retail venues, public spaces, events and other gatherings.
"If you don't want to be vaccinated, that's your choice, but remember that other people also have the right not to be exposed to the greater risk of infection that results from you exercising your choice."
Tauranga City Council community services general manager Gareth Wallis said some people said they felt "happy or safer" when visiting its public facilities yesterday.
"Others were double-vaccinated, but didn't yet have a pass.
"As this is a new change we expect it will take some time for people to adapt."
"We acknowledge some people have been disappointed by the decision council has made, but as we have explained, we believe it is our responsibility to limit the spread of Covid and protect our community."
Western Bay of Plenty District Council's group manager of people and customer service Jan Pedersen said day one of the orange traffic light setting had been "smooth".
The council had received feedback from people in-person and online about the vaccine pass.
''Our decision not to mandate vaccine passes at our public facilities is based on the fact that our community facilities should be available to all residents."
Unite Union said it had "two major concerns" about the vaccine pass in hospitality - dealing with aggressive customers without a vaccine pass who were denied entry, and keeping workers safe from exposure to Covid, a media statement said.
The union was advising all hospitality workers to put the safety of workers and customers ahead of "business as usual or expediency".
- Additional reporting Cira Olivier