Northland hospitality businesses are "devastated and sitting on the precipice of the unknown" after the Government decision to move to alert level 2 on Tuesday.
Business owners are bracing for the worst, expecting the move up alert levels to last longer than until midnight Friday as stated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after four people from one Auckland family tested positive for Covid-19.
Cathryn Baragwanath, the owner of 39 Gillies St Cafe in Kawakawa, said the initial feeling upon hearing the announcement "was panic".
"But because we've been through this before the pivot was quite easy," she said.
Baragwanath and her staff jumped into action on Wednesday morning, separating tables, posting the changes on social media and pasting QR code posters on the café walls. They are also helping people download the contact tracing app.
But Baragwanath said uncertainty over the future was playing on everyone's minds, especially since the wage subsidy scheme comes to an end on September 1.
"If there's no money coming in, we can't pay for wages and there's nothing left to apply for. We're taking it day by day, wondering is it going to be a couple of days or will it be longer? We're sitting on the precipice of the unknown again – that's the problem."
Under level 2, businesses can open to the public if they follow health guidelines which include social distancing and record keeping.
Cafes, bars and restaurants must also ensure customers are seated, are served at a table rather than a counter, the tables are spaced apart and there is a single server per group.
Gatherings over 100 are banned, including weddings, birthdays, funerals and tangihanga.
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Old Packhouse Market owner Judy Hyland said there had been crowds of around 2000 people at the Saturday market in Kerikeri. Since the cafe was refurbished in July, it had been busy every day of the week so the move back to level 2 was "devastating", she said.
"Because it goes until midnight Friday, we have to make a call that errs on the really conservative side and assume we'll only have 100 people on site including stallholders."
For the cafe to operate, they will have to remove tables, make menus, and have more wait staff on.
"It's a major, but we can handle it because we can still keep trading, even though our income is way, way down," Hyland said.
"But if we go to level 3 what do we do with all our staff? I can't imagine the Government will do the wage subsidy again. That's my major concern. If we go to the next level so many hospitality businesses will be absolutely decimated."
Co-owner of Whangārei's Split Bar and Restaurant Karl Marsland said the move back to level 2 made things slower and more difficult.
"You need to have more staff on for less people. That's the real difficult one. We've also lost a couple of tables to ensure we have the right distance between everyone. It's easier because we've done it already but it's still not easy. We just have to do the best we can."
Whangārei Growers Market co-founder Murray Burns said the market would go ahead on Saturday as usual.
"If it finishes at midnight on Friday it won't be a problem," he said.
If level 2 was extended beyond that, organisers would make the necessary adjustments, he said.
"It's a question of whether we have to have security people there like last time, and contact tracing people coming in and out. But it's the middle of winter and we're not getting that many people anyway, so it wouldn't be that difficult to keep it to under 100 people.
"It's a concern if it goes to level 3 again, it's pretty low margins for vegetables, doing pickups and deliveries."
Northland Inc chief executive Murray Reade said the sooner Northland could "go back to normality the better".
"Any form of lockdown is going to have an impact on our local economy. We need to be thinking how we can work our way through that.
"While it's probably not going to be that positive for the hospitality industry, we need to recognise we don't want the virus to spread either. We need to nail it as quick as we can."
Reade acknowledged fears of the wage subsidy coming to an end and agreed "that's a concern moving forward".
"I hope the Government would view that is a concern, and act to address that issue," he said.
"Particularly if we go into some form of lockdown process. That's clearly going to have impact on our local economy."