Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Freedom day like the end of World War II, says Auckland restaurateur

A restaurant owner in Auckland says it was like partying after the end of World War II when restrictions were lifted on Friday after being locked down for months.

But the Restaurant Association says it “wasn’t smooth sailing” for the majority of its members.

After being in a lockdown for 107 days, vaccinated Aucklanders were finally able to dine in at their favourite restaurant for the first time on Friday, as long as they were willing to show their vaccine passports.

“Friday was like a boomer, I can only imagine it being like a party like the end of World War II type thing on the streets,” said Luke Dallow the owner of dumplings and beer restaurant Midnight Gardener.

But Saturday and Sunday were quieter than Friday, he said.

“Everyone was so happy, polite, understanding … there was no trouble anywhere, everyone was just in a very good festive mood,” Dallow said.

And the vaccine passport worked “fairly easy”, he said.

But the biggest problem was around the clarity on whether, customers or staff had to put on the mask.

“That was the only cloudiness of the whole weekend,” Dallow said.

The Prime Minister had announced last Monday to shift the country into the new traffic light system from Friday, December 3, also known as a “freedom day”.

Regions entering red light settings include Northland, Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua Lakes Districts, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki Districts, Gisborne District, Wairoa District, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu Districts.

The rest of the North Island and the entire South Island have moved straight to orange.

Leo Molloy, owner of Headquarters at Auckland’s Viaduct Basin, said he was happy with customer inflow into this restaurant on Friday but Saturday and Sunday were slightly quieter.

“It was a very routine and very smooth weekend … with no hiccup,” he said.

However, based on the latest number of bookings, he expects the next weekend to be much busier.

In terms of vaccine passports, the couple of issues he faced was with customers who had an overseas vaccine passport and with the customers whose passport was difficult to scan due to problems with their phones like a broken phone screen.

“I personally found it [vaxx passport system] pretty simple and straightforward,” he said.

One customer had a vaccine passport that looked legit, but he had to refer them to the patrolling police officer to make a call on, which the police declined entry to the person, he said.

“Ninety-nine per cent of people were very well behaved,” Molloy said.

He also thanked the police for taking an educational approach on the night by co-operating well with the restaurant and the public.

He said police came about 10 times over the weekend to monitor the area to check whether the restriction rules were being followed, he said.

It appeared though they feel for us and what we’ve been through, he said.

“Police have been great … they are taking an educational approach and they are working with us,” Molloy said.

But Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Biodis said the move to the traffic light system “wasn’t smooth” for many of its members.

“Hospitality businesses in Auckland finally opened their doors this weekend after more than three months of level three operating restrictions.

“But the move to the new traffic light framework wasn’t smooth sailing for 72 per cent of operators who reported challenges putting in place.

“Whilst 27 per cent of our members reported a smooth transition, unfortunately, two-thirds of businesses experienced issues in rolling out the new operation guidelines,” Bidois said.

Forty per cent of respondents experienced issues with rude or aggressive customers whilst 45 per cent reported customers not understanding the new regulations.

One fifth said they experienced issues with operating the new technology.

“Our Auckland based businesses are glad that they are finally able to start on-premise dining but the challenges are really disappointing to hear about,” Bidois said.

“We’re confident that as diners and hospitality workers become more used to the pass, these will iron out as we all become more familiar with the system.”

Restaurant Association national president Mike Egan said Friday was very busy and there was more demand than what people were allowed in his restaurant.

He said the vaccine passports were “very straightforward” and the vaccine system worked very well.

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