While the country eagerly moved into Alert Level 2 on Thursday, May 14, there was bad news for bars and their loyal patrons alike.

Venues that mainly serve alcohol would have to hold out for another week before they could get the pints pouring again.

While it was a bitter wait, Tracy Banner, owner of Sprig and Fern Upper Queen, is thrilled to be back.

While the Sprig and Fern does serve food, Tracy said that it wouldn’t have been a practical move to open when restaurants did, a week earlier when the country moved to level 2.

“We have a small kitchen, and it was going to be too hard. We couldn’t provide that high standard of service, so for us it was about staying closed for another week and then letting everybody back in.”

Friday ‘after work drinks’ will feel different for locals.

There won’t be any hanging around at the bar, with table service as the new norm.

In order to operate, bars and hospitality businesses have to follow the government’s ‘Three S’s’ system, that was outlined by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – Seated, Separation, and Single Server.

This means bars will only be able to cater to the number of people they can seat. There must be social distancing between people and tables, and each table must have just one person serving them. That also means no ordering at the bar.

“It will be a slightly different operation, but we are ready.”

Tracy says she understands why it will be tough for some bars across the country.

“There are considerations – it is going to take more staff, that’s going to be tough for some small businesses. We’ll need extra people to make it happen with the service.”

Tracy said that bookings came as soon as they announced they were reopening.

“It’s interesting because we are taking bookings, but we are going to have to be turning people away.

“We understand people want to get back. We are a hub for the local community, and we are mindful of keeping people safe.

“The team was so excited. We operated on a skeleton crew, doing click and collect and some deliveries, but the team were ready to see each other and the locals, too.”

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