After four months in lockdown, Aucklanders are back at the pubs and restaurants and celebrating like it's New Year's Eve.
With the sun shining and the new traffic light system in place, folks have been quick to head to the bars and restaurants this afternoon, especially those in Ponsonby and the Viaduct.
Freeman & Grey manager Emma Gore said the Ponsonby Rd restaurant was having a great night so far.
"We've been pretty busy but it's been fun. Sign-ins are working well and our customers are happy.''
She said while they were expecting it to be as busy as a standard Friday night before lockdown, it was exciting to be back.
"We've been spending the last four months getting ready to go and to have tonight be the night to do it... We're just super happy to be back."
Further along in Ponsonby, bistro and bar SPQR was so busy the manager didn't have time to tell the Herald his name.
"Tonight is like New Year's night for us. We're unbelievably busy and probably a little bit understaffed because it is absolutely humming, we hardly have any time to pick up the phone."
"Apart from that, it is a fantastic night to be back providing a service for very friendly customers who are all signing in and abiding by the rules."
Under the new system Aucklanders are now allowed to dine at restaurants, bars and cafes, albeit still with some restrictions and patrons must have a vaccination pass.
These, and other businesses in the hospitality sector, have been mostly unable to operate under alert level restrictions since Delta plunged the city into lockdown on August 17.
Soul Bar and Bistro's commercial and events manager Olivia Carter told RNZ the business had been preparing for days.
"It's a mixture of being excited, of being nervous and having that real sense of butterflies in my stomach almost but I can't wait," she said.
"We're delivering the summer menu so our staff have come in and we've gone through how the dishes are prepared, we've tasted them all, we've had some wine tasting also some cocktail tasting with new cocktails added to the menu."
It opened at 11am with four seatings of 100 diners with set start and finish times.
"It is only 100 people, once you stand up you need to put your mask on, it's still distanced, and lots of restaurants will have timing restrictions in play to try and maximise these last few lost months."
Carter told RNZ that was still a third of the number of customers through the door in normal times and turning a profit under Covid red was questionable.
"If you are deciding that you're not going to come into whatever restaurant it is, please ring them and let them know because you not showing up with six people really is huge to us and if they can get somebody else in on that table of six then that's really important."
- Auckland is in traffic light red with Northland, Taupō, Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitīkei, Whanganui and Ruapehu districts. Everywhere else started the day in orange.