The hospitality and retail sectors are welcoming news that level 1 will start from this evening - enabling them to get rid of what many of them found were crippling restrictions.

Restrictions imposed on businesses - particularly the hospitality sector - will lift from 12pm tonight.

Staff at Fork and Brewer in Wellington could not wait to get back to business as usual from tomorrow.

The company's turnover was hit significantly under the requirements imposed at level 2 and 3 and were difficult for both staff and customers. It was grateful to be able to start operating normally again.


Fork and Brewer operations manager Kieran O'Malley said staff wanted to get on and do their jobs and look after their customers to the best of their abilities.

Wellington bar owner Matt Mclaughlin, whose venues include Danger Danger and Panhead, said he was super ecstatic about the announcement and pleased the country was jumping straight into level 1 which would enable people to dance, order at the bars and allow more people in the venues and walking around instead of being stuck at their tables.

Mclaughlin said the restrictions had been really tough on the hospitality sector and getting rid of them was going to make a massive difference on the industry.

"They were really restrictive and certainly hurt trade. Even though our doors were open it was really difficult to get people through the doors."

Staff at Wellington's Fork and Brewer celebrate the country moving to level 1 from midnight tonight. Photo / Supplied
Staff at Wellington's Fork and Brewer celebrate the country moving to level 1 from midnight tonight. Photo / Supplied

He expected a honeymoon period when people were excited to be able to be out again, but said the struggle would be ensuring they had bums and seats regularly during the winter months.

Auckland bar owner Mat Jorgensen said he couldn't wait to reopen their two Wyndham St venues, Ding Dong Lounge and Infinity.

The bars had reopened for the first time since lockdown last weekend for private functions - but due to the restrictions such as only allowing 100 people in they didn't make any money from it.

He had been unable to open the bars any earlier as they were music and dance venues - and the restrictions around people having to be seated didn't work for them.


Ding Dong Lounge would reopen from Wednesday while he was waiting until Friday before opening Infinity as they wanted to do it right.

"I imagine the next two weeks will be really busy - bars and nightclubs - and then after that we will see."

Jorgensen said he was pretty optimistic and upbeat after the hospitality sector had been hit so hard by the lockdown and subsequent restrictions.

At a press conference this afternoon Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said hospitality - like other sectors - was back without limitations.

Ardern said now the country had won the battle with Covid, she was focused on rebuilding the economy and encouraged people to buy, play and experience things locally.

However, The NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) says the move to alert level 1 is not the panacea it appears to be.


"The hospitality sector was one of the first and hardest hit at alert level 4, and although level 1 looks like 'business as usual' on paper the reality for the industry will be very different," says executive director Bridget MacDonald.

She said while the industry was being optimistic there were plenty of challenges ahead.

"We still have a very long and rocky road to recovery ahead. Operational freedoms might be back for restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs to operate at capacity to try to drive more income and control costs, but there are still significant financial and social challenges in this environment."

"We estimate a recovery period of up to three years for hospitality and the alcohol beverages supply chain of growers, brewers, distillers and winemakers, importers and exporters – and that sentiment is agreed globally."

Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White said it was fantastic news and moving to level 1 meant many hospitality operators could begin to reclaim a sense of normality.

"It will also provide customers with much-needed confidence to go out and safely socialise," she said.


"This is just a breath of fresh air for us."

However White said they still faced some challenges as many of the cities had reduced foot traffic as people continued to work from home and consumers were also still being cautious about how much money they spent out.

"The debt the hospitality sector has accumulated - now it is really about looking forward and how do they turn their business back into a profitable solution with that additional debt."

She said the sector would get the further boost it needed when the country reopened its borders.

"Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said moving to level 1 was the best way to help start getting things back on track.

He hoped customers would feel confident about heading back into shops, and said CBD retailers, especially in Wellington, would be eagerly awaiting the return of public sector office workers.


"The retail sector is under enormous pressure at the present time, and while significant economic stimulus is still required, a move back towards more normality is a very positive step."