While they may have different views on the process, owners of two Te Puke bars have one thing in common when it comes to being allowed to reopen today - a warm welcome for customers.

''We have missed our regulars so much, we can't wait,'' says Sue Peat of Te Puke Hotel.

Anann Pineapple pub co-owner Leigh Bartosh says while this time of year traditionally sees a lot of backpackers and kiwifruit workers visit the bar, reopening after being closed since mid March is ''all about the regulars''.

''We've been getting text messages personally to us from our customers asking about where we're at and when we are going to open,'' says Leigh.


Under alert level 3, Anann has been offering a contactless takeaway food collection service and Leigh says, as a food as well as drink outlet, the bar may have been able to open as a restaurant a week ago when New Zealand dropped to alert level 2. However, he decided to wait until bars were allowed to open on May 21.

''We could open, but would have to abide by the Easter trading laws which means everybody has to have a meal, they have to be on the premises for two hours [maximum], so we decided to stay just doing the contactless takeaway food for the next week then we will open fully next Thursday,'' he said last week.

He didn't see staying closed for another week as a problem.

''I've got no qualms with it - the decisions are made way above us and there's not a lot we can do about it and we can take positives out of it. We've got a week to wait and watch and see how other operators are doing, their seating plans and how they are organising their people, how they are doing their sanitisation, all that kind of stuff.

''We've got a fair idea of that we are going to do, but it gives us a chance to look and see if there's anything we might have missed.

''It also gives us that extra time to get prepared and, in this industry, preparedness is the biggest thing, so we have an extra week to make sure we have our menu up and running, make sure we've got our supplies coming. All that kind of stuff is good for us so I've got no problem with it at all.''

Tables have been spaced out as much as possible and Leigh is looking at ways of getting a sanitisation station at the pool table so people can play pool.

Customers will have to be served at their tables.

''We've been in the industry a long time, so we know how to do that.


''I think it's just a case of making the customers aware that this is what happens now - that's how they have to behave when they are in the premises and that's not just here that's across the board. It can't be just like it was when they used to sidle up to the bar and order, it's changed now.''

Collecting information for contact tracing is also a requirement and the bar will have a QR-code based system or for those without smartphones or not wanting to use it, a paper register that only staff will touch.

Customers will have to wait at the door to be seated.

''If we know we've got all our tables full, then we'll be full - that's just the way it has to be and it's a one table out, one table in system, just like the supermarkets - that's the way it will operate.''

Sue says she was gutted when she heard that bars would have wait until May 21 to open when most other businesses could start operating under alert level 2 a week earlier.

''From what I could gather the difference between a bar and a restaurant is that people who dine are less likely to want to communicate with anyone else in the restaurant other than their own group,'' she says.

''At the end of the day it is the ruling that we have been given based on the advice the powers-that-be have been presented, so we have to go along with it.''

She says customers will not be able to approach the bar and only one person can serve a table.

She says there are some inconsistencies between bars and other businesses.

''[We] must contact trace every person that enters the premises, meanwhile in supermarkets there still is no need for contact tracing.

''It is a little confusing when you have two sets of rules for different sectors of the community, highlighted by not only the contact tracing but the numbers that can be in any one place at a time.

''I'm not judging anyone for their decision making as what a nightmare this whole pandemic has been for anyone to navigate, but a little more consistency for businesses would have gone a long way to maintaining mental health of small business owners. This long away from being able to operate may just be a little too hard for some to come back from for some of them."

Sue says staff will keep a watchful eye on social distancing once the bar reopens.

''From what I have witnessed, the human race is getting pretty good at this on their own using their common sense.

''And of course the other obvious thing is hygiene and vigorous cleaning measures which I think is a no brainer.''