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Back to business . . . (Clockwise from bottom left) Scotts Brewing Co staff Christina Wilson and Clemens Schmidt give the outdoor deck a fresh coat of paint; Steam Cafe owner Tracie Meechan is ready to host people in her rearranged outdoor seating area; Taste Cafe owners Deb Souter-Allan (left) and Sal McPherson give the building a thorough clean to prepare for opening. PHOTOS: GUS PATTERSON

Welcome to Level 2, Waitaki – the lockdown is over! Cafes, bars and restaurants have opened their doors again, but how are they adapting to a new way of doing business? Gus Patterson finds out.

Cafe, bar and restaurant owners across the Waitaki district have had to adapt their business models once again to meet Alert Level 2 guidelines and the new needs of their customers.

Under Level 2, restaurants and cafes are allowed to open their doors to the public, but only if they abide by strict rules. Bars and pubs can also open, as long as they seat patrons and serve them food with their drinks.

New rules include that groups can be no larger than 10 people and must be kept 1m away from other groups, and physical distancing must be maintained if people are in a queue to enter, pay, or go to the bathroom.

A contact register with details of everyone who has entered the premises must also be kept.

A late change to the guidelines made it easier for small cafes to be able to operate, Steam Cafe owner Tracie Meechan said.

The Government had initially said eateries would need to be table service-only, but later added the words “where possible”.

“If they didn’t do that we would have had to employ two or three extra people – and we couldn’t,” Ms Meechan said.

Ms Meechan said she had tried to change her suppliers to local ones where possible.

“We were planning to do it anyway, but with Covid-19, the local economy needed a boost,” she said.

“It’s less about our income and more about everyone getting something locally.”

Taste Cafe did not open in Level 3, so owners Deb Souter-Allan and Sal McPherson were excited to open the doors yesterday.

“People have been looking forward to meeting their friends for a coffee and a chat,” Mrs McPherson said.

“[I’m] not looking forward to waking up at five in the morning, but you get used to it.”

There was one silver lining to the disruption, they said.

“It’s been a chance to catch up on a few things,” Mrs Souter-Allan said.

“We would never have given ourselves a five week break [otherwise].”

Scotts Brewing Co reopened to the public yesterday, serving meals and beer. Tables had been re-arranged to allow for physical distancing and the brewery was offering table service, co-owner Tyla Scott said.

When entering, people would also have to scan a QR code or give staff their details for contact tracing.

Scotts Brewing Co would feel the effects of a decline in international tourism, but it had a solid New Zealand and local following, she said.

“We have an avid local support base, which is great.

“Domestic tourism might be a nice way to circulate the funds that people do have.”

The Government’s wage subsidy had been crucial to the survival of the business, and staff were keen to get back to work, Mrs Scott said.

The brewery had still been producing beer during the lockdown, but demand had been low.

“It’s been quiet, but that’s been the case for everyone,” Mrs Scott said.

North Otago Chamber of Commerce chairman Simon Berry said the move to Alert Level 2 was welcomed by local businesses.

Mr Berry hoped the Covid-19 crisis would encourage people to shop local more often.

“I think everyone has got the understanding now, that the [shop] local message is vital.

“We have seen some cafes well supported. If that can continue into hospitality that would be great.