Today’s the day that bars around New Zealand can serve their first drinks following the COVID-19 lockdown.

In her press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she has “huge faith” in bars and clubs and she acknowledged times have been tough for owners and bar staff.

The Government said it will consider increasing the maximum size of gatherings under Alert Level 2 when Cabinet meets next week.

Currently, under the Level 2 restrictions, bars must follow the three S rules:

Seated: Everyone in the venue must be seated.

Separated: Physical distancing of one metre must be maintained in a controlled environment. The layout of bars will need to be configured to maintain the distancing between tables and/or between groups.

Single Server: Only one staff member should be providing the service to all customers in their zone. A server can have more than one table, but each table should only have one server.

Bars must also ensure every customer can be traced. The Government has released the NZ COVID Tracer app to make it easier to identify people who have come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Businesses need to register with Business Connect to get their QR code posters for their workplace and to do this, you need a RealME login, a New Zealand Business Number and authority over your business. Find out more here.

But with the purpose of bars to dance, mingle and interact with friends and new people, the restrictions can make it difficult to maintain an upbeat environment.

Here a few ideas on how to bring in customers and keep them entertained during Level 2

Quiz nights

A quiz night is the perfect way to draw in patrons, particularly during quiet nights from Sunday-Wednesday.

Tables will need to be a maximum of 10 people and spaced a metre apart but by utilising space designated for a dance floor, bars can pack in as many tables as the 100 people limit will allow.

Reduced hours

With bars typically staying open much later than restaurants, many bar owners are choosing to open later on quiet nights (from 5pm or 6pm) and then staying open as late as they can.

Wellington bar owner Matt McLaughlin told the NZ Herald that his bar Danger Danger is licensed to stay open until 4am and would stay open for as long as it could. This way, restaurant patrons can move on to bars for a drink after their meals and stay on.

It may also be option for your bar to only open on typically busy nights (Thursday-Saturday) to lessen staff costs but capitalise on weekend drinkers.

Live music

Bring in a live musician or band for people to enjoy while seated.

To reduce costs, up-and-coming musicians or people who play as a hobby may be happy to be paid with just a bar tab. Put the word out via your customers to see who might like to play a mini-gig.

Happy hours and cheap food

With so many New Zealanders out of work, it may be a struggle to head out and spend money. So bring back the Happy Hour – offer cheap drinks and food during a designated one to two hour timeframe. Food specials can be extended throughout the night to bring in people for dinner.

Stay connected

Make sure you stay connected with your regulars via social media. Give away bar snacks, platters or discount vouchers to followers, or put customers or commenters in a prize draw. And make sure you keep up the FB and Instagram posts so the locals stay up-to-date with any goings-on in your venue.

For the latest updates for businesses surrounding COVID-19, click here.

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