Bay of Plenty's hospitality industry has been left confused by the rules around operating under level 2 - with concerns raised over a lack of trust and a lack of clarity.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that Covid-19 alert level 2 would be phased in, with retailers, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces and playgrounds allowed to reopen with no more than 100 people from tomorrow.
From Monday, May 18, schools and early childhood centres will open to all students, followed by bars adhering to the three "S" rules - seated service, social distancing and single servers from May 21. Pubs and bars will be allowed to open earlier if they adhere to rules including serving patrons a meal, not just drinks.
Hospitality New Zealand's Bay of Plenty manager Alan Sciascia said the industry had been expecting Monday's announcement to be similar to last week, that customers are seated, separated and each table has a single server. But the additional requirements of a two-hour limit, maximum groups of 10, and alcohol only being served with food were a surprise, he said.
"The message that was delivered by the Prime Minister [on Monday] was actually quite unexpected, it really caught us by surprise," Sciascia said.
They were still seeking clarity to the rules but as it stood, "some businesses feel they can operate, some can't".
"It's a lack of trust but more importantly, a lack of clarity ... what in fact can and can't be done.
"We'll just do the best we can, operate with what we know and make a few assumptions."
For Richard Hazeldine, who owns Our Backyard Pub in Rotorua, the extra rules and staggered opening highlighted a lack of trust in the processes bar owners would implement on their own to ensure the safety of their patrons.
"Why can't we be trusted to open?"
Hazeldine said the hospitality was "quite a robust industry", that followed many rules when serving drinks and as a bar that served food, he would be open from this Friday.
"There's not a lot of trust in the processes we will have," he said.
Cilla Paul-Bennett, who owns McSwiggans Irish Pub in Cambridge Heights, said as an establishment that didn't serve meals she wouldn't be open this week.
However, she was making final preparations, ensuring she had enough hand sanitiser throughout her establishment and putting up dividers so she could open her doors again on May 21, after eight weeks without income.
"We've separated our tables ... we're just going to 41 seats and two staff on at all times," Paul-Bennett said.
She said having to shut her doors had been hard but her regulars had reached out during the past seven weeks to check in on her, which she said was special.
She has owned McSwiggans Irish Pub for about five years but has worked there for 10, describing it as similar to the television show Cheers, which has the tagline and theme song of "where everybody knows your name".
"It's like a little family bar here. It's sort of like Cheers, it's locals."
The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi said pubs and bars operating under Anzac Day-style rules and in a similar way to restaurants and cafes would allow the venues to get back to business this week but people needed to act responsibly.
"If you decide to go to the pub when we move to level 2, please keep your distance and don't socialise in the way you might normally when you pop to your local for a drink."
Faafoi said the Anzac-style, food-first rules of trade would be reviewed next week.
Bars and pubs can open from today under the following rules:
• Patrons must be seated.
• Patrons must be served a meal, not just drinks.
• Serving staff must stick to serving specific tables.
• Establishments must ensure no more than 10 people per booking.
• Establishments cannot accommodate more than 100 people.
• Establishments must ensure safe spacing between seated groups.