WITH the Covid-19 lockdown now at level two, Opotiki residents can once again frequent restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels and motels this weekend.

The Masonic Hotel, Royal Opotiki, Slim’s Bar and the Opotiki Hotel have each reported they will be open today, operating in keeping with level two regulations.

Royal Opotiki owner Anne Thrupp said although the restaurant opened this week, she was looking forward to serving customers at the bar again.

“We have centred our marketing around the drinkers who have missed out on their favourite RTDs and drinks they can’t buy in supermarkets,” she said.

She said their restaurant advertising was also focussing on those special items that could not quite be imitated at home.

Though social distancing and strict health and safety regulations will still apply, patrons will have the chance to lift a glass and toast their good health. Punters will also be allowed to play the pokies.

But probably best of all, visitors are bound to receive a warm welcome as they arrive.

Though she has seen a return of some of her regular customers, Mrs Thrupp said she expected it to be a process to return to normality.

“I have a feeling it may be slow because of the financial pressure and uncertainty in jobs for everybody at the moment,” she said.

She said since takeaways were allowed under level three, many people were still in the frame of mind where they prefer dining at home. But takeaway orders also cut into their alcohol sales, which is where their profit margins are best.

She said she hoped that as businesses returned to full operation, the community would be keen to shop local again and

“We want to give back to the community as well. We have launched a scheme recently where every meal we sell, we will donate a dollar towards our local fire service,” she said.

She said they will change the group who gets this money every three months to spread the money as far as possible. She said it was an opportunity for everyone in Opotiki to show their community spirit.

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty president Reg Hennessey said it had never been more important to support local businesses, many of which have been teetering on the edge of collapse, than it was now.

Regional manager Alan Sciascia said the campaign to encourage Bay of Plenty residents to support local restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels and motels was like the familiar “Buy Local” campaign.

“Wherever they live in the Bay of Plenty, we want people to think about going out for a meal or a social drink just like they did before the lockdown,” he said. “Everyone has been going to the supermarket and now they can go out for a meal or even a weekend away.”

Though under level three hospitality businesses could offer takeaways and contactless deliveries, many food businesses struggled to cope.

“I talked to the owners of some who opened for takeaways and they said they were busy on the first day, then trade dropped away.”

Mr Hennessy predicted people would be eager to make the most of this new freedom.

“We’re all social creatures and we look to engage in social activity in our bards, restaurants and cafes. We haven’t been able to do that for a long time.”

mark.rieder@thebeacon.co.nz