Christmas parties are back on the horizon after New Zealand’s move to the traffic light system at 11.59pm on Thursday.
In Auckland, which has been in lockdown for more than 100 consecutive days, hospitality venues have reopened for vaccinated patrons – albeit with capacity restrictions and seated-only dining.
With just weeks to go until Christmas, many bars and restaurants are already booked out for office parties – but there are still some vacancies for those who are yet to get organised.
Nicholas Pearce of Karangahape Rd’s Madam George said he was expecting a “very busy few weeks” and “a deluge of people” coming in from Friday, but no work parties had been booked as of yet.
* Auckland restaurants prepared for hectic reopening, but worried about summer slump
* ‘We expect a record-breaking summer’: Travel bookings surge ahead of Auckland reopening
In the Viaduct, most places were still open for bookings.
Dr Rudi’s had spots available, as did Parasol & Swing, Saint Alice, Danny Doolans and O’Hagans.
There was still availability for bookings across all Good Spirits Hospitality pubs, including The Cav, Botany Commons, Citizen Park, Doolan Brothers in both Ellerslie and Newmarket, and Union Post.
“Words of wisdom from the GSH team is don’t bank on being able to turn up without a booking with the current restrictions and demand,” a Good Spirits Hospitality spokesman said.
“People still tend to think of Danny Doolans as a pub you don’t need to book for, but bookings are rolling in already.”
With outside tables at Headquarters available long into December, there was plenty of opportunity for those willing to brave the ever-changing Auckland weather.
Owner Leo Molloy said bookings were “very strong and heavy” but the outdoor options – bolstered for the season and with extra heaters – provided many a back-up option.
Over at Christmas party failsafe Holey Moley, booking sheets were filling up fast, but there were still some spots remaining.
Soul Bar & Bistro’s event manager Olivia Carter recommended party organisers push for an early week celebration, as most places would be packed to the rafters come late week and weekend.
“Fridays and Saturdays are completely chocca, and Wednesdays and Thursdays are just as busy, which will be the same for hospitality in general,” she said.
Running at just half of its capacity due to the 100-person limit, Soul Bar & Bistro was already filling up fast – but Carter said there were still spots remaining for those who got in quick enough.
The same went for White + Wongs, which was almost fully booked for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Christmas, but had availability earlier in the week.
Out in West Auckland, popular venue The Brigham Restaurant and Cafe had 200 people on its waitlist in the lead-up to Christmas.
Owner Raj Yadav said the site was fully booked until November before lockdown, but many people had since cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Yadav said The Brigham Restaurant and Cafe and his restaurant McHughs of Cheltenham in the North Shore couldn’t take anymore bookings until Auckland reached the orange light.
Venue manager Patrick Rhodes of Little Creatures in Hobsonville said the restaurant was fully booked for the upcoming weekend but would keep a section open for walk-ins.
However, Rhodes said it had “lost majority of our functions” as they were restricted to 100 people maximum, who had to be seated.
During the Christmas season, Rhodes said, the restaurant was “up and down”, with some days fully booked and some not.
Jessabell Granada, the owner of Nanam in Takapuna, said the first two weeks of December were “looking good” in terms of bookings for Christmas functions.
Granada was already receiving enquiries for Christmas and New Years bookings for smaller groups.
Granada said the preparations had been “crazy” and she could “feel the energy”, with Aucklanders itching to return after lockdown.