A bar in Whangarei raked in close to $60,000 in sales and others made similar bucks on Saturday alone, thanks to the Lions and hordes of accompanying rugby fans.

The city was buzzing, mostly with Lions' supporters, whose presence meant all hands were on deck in the hospitality sector day and night on Saturday when the British and Irish Lions played the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians at Toll Stadium.

There was barely space to walk inside popular drinking holes such as Dickens Inn on Cameron St- metres away from the Long Lunch venue- and rugby fans were also seen in big numbers at McMorrissey's Irish Pub and Eatery on Vine St.

The Whangarei District Council granted McMorrissey's a special licence to increase its capacity from 220 to 400 patrons on game day.


Operations' manager Amitesh Chandra said his staff sold 35 kegs or 1750 litres of Guinness, Kilkenny and Boddingtons beers - almost 3700 pints - plus spirits.

He reckons his business earned about $60,000 on Saturday which was double what it earns on St Patrick's Day and nearly six times more than the revenue from a Saturday evening.

"I've organised St Patrick's Day celebration for seven years and last Saturday was the biggest ever night we had, both in terms of crowd and beer and food sales," he said.

"The council should bring more high-profile events like this to Whangarei. We got busy from about 11am and except when the game was on when people left for the grounds, there was no rest for us every other time until 3am on Sunday," Mr Chandra said.

The Butter Factory hosted between 250 and 300 people, including British High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair, Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti, and Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis.

"Business was really good but I thought the council could have done more by relaxing a few things like promoting special licences because 500 to 1000 people could not get into bars.

"Whangarei ran out of bars with the number of Lions' supporters as well as a lot of people from out of town," Butter Factory manager Zak Olsen said.

A Dickens Inn staff member said it was a very busy night and everyone was well behaved.

The council invested $250,000 into the game but yesterday said the full financial impact would not be known until after the Lions' series was over.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew meanwhile thanked Northlanders for their wonderful support during the tour opener.

Despite torrential rain leading up to the match, he said the venue and pitch were in perfect condition for the match.

Mr Tew also thanked more than 400 Ngapuhi warriors who turned up for the Lions' powhiri in Waitangi on Sunday to showcase our nation's Maori culture and heritage.

"As the series moves to the six other regions hosting matches, we can only say thank you Northland for everything- you've set the bar very high indeed."