WARWICK SMITH / Stuff
Staff at the Stage Door Cafe in King St celebrate the lifting of gathering restrictions, manager Annalize Smith, left, and Xanthe Vos-Tutt.
With the mention of a sour color, the mood of Manawatū’s hospitality industry brightened.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced a rapid move to amber light conditions on Wednesday afternoon. All indoor capacity and seating restrictions are to be lifted by 11:59 p.m.
Customers in bars, cafes and restaurants are no longer required to sit down or wear a mask when getting up from their seat.
Wearing a mask in public transport, retail outlets, pharmacies, airports, government buildings and public leisure facilities is still required.
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The lifting of restrictions is quick relief for a beleaguered hospitality sector battling for patronage as Kiwis have grown accustomed to staying at home amid the Omicron outbreak and social restrictions.
Ricky Quirk, owner of Palmerston North nightclubs The Cobb, Trader McKenzie’s and The Daily, said the change in lights would have a huge impact on his venues.
“It means we will be able to reopen the nightclub, although we probably won’t be open until next weekend as Easter trading hours can be a bit disruptive.
“I’d like to think more people will show up. Our other bars have been doing pretty well lately, so we’ll see if the youngsters do well again.
Although the small cafes did not anticipate a drastic change in commerce, they hoped that the orange would bring a change of mood.
“It’s terrible to turn people away,” Stage Door Cafe manager Annalize Smith said.
She, along with barista Xanthe Vos-Tutt, said she could see the potential for more people to walk through their doors.
“We know a few people who are unvaccinated who are really excited to come back,” Vos-Tutt said.
“We also get a lot of customers from UCOL across the road. Their classes have been separated but now that they are all back on campus, I hope they will come back to us too.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins gives the daily update and announces a change from alert levels to the amber traffic light setting.
The Superstock Teams Champs speedway festival, to be held in Palmerston North over Anzac weekend and expected to attract over 10,000 visitors to Manawatū, was looming on the minds of many business owners.
Jacko Stephens’ George St cafe, Cafe Jacko, is a stone’s throw from CET Arena.
He said the announcement couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Teams Champs is by far our biggest trading weekend. We expect to be slammed. It’s going to be huge.
“I don’t know if our business will increase, but I think people will feel a lot better coming here now that they won’t have to wear masks and they won’t have to worry about themselves. Sit.”
In Terrace End, The Rose and Crown general manager Thomas Griggs felt the same way, hoping the lifting of restrictions would bring back the pub atmosphere that regulars have been looking for.
“Getting rid of seat restrictions is huge for us. Many of our regulars enjoy coming to the bar, enjoying a pint, joking a bit and for us that is part of it.
Griggs said Teams Champs has always been huge for the pub, attracting customers from out of town and overseas.
“So hopefully some of that will come back.”