Coronavirus: Nightlife's big reopening on Friday far from booming

The nightlife business might be back - but it's far from booming.

Police were out in force on Friday night, patrolling hospitality hot spots around the country and keeping an eye out on group sizes and enforcing social distancing.

But it was eerily quiet for the most part and more than a few customers short of the grand re-opening bars and restaurants had hoped for.

Auckland's The Whiskey bar was serving meals as a way to meet the level 2 requirements.

"Boss wanted to open and he found a way," the manager says.

They weren't the only ones.

Leo Molloy, the owner of the popular Auckland bar Headquarters, hosted a private party on Friday night.

"Every day is precious to us, leaving two months is a hell of a setback," he says.

But after being critical of the Government's level 2 rules there had been some backlash to his event.

"Couple people pulled out but no one significant. So don't ask who it was," he says.

Among the cancellations was Hone Harawira. But National's Paula Bennett did show up as did Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki.

Guests had their temperature checked on arrival and were seated for a meal in their bubbles.

"Obviously [we] can't go over the 10 [person limit], I think there's one nine but mostly just four, five, sixes," Molloy says.

But the partying stopped there.

Next door some of the city's hottest spots sat empty in the dark, bottles of wine replaced by sanitiser.

Hospitality has been hamstrung by the 'three S rules': served by a single waiter, seated and separated.

"We've had a few groups where we've had to say 'look you've got to keep the social distant' and it's not received well," The Lawrenson Group CEO John Lawrenson says.

With sixteen bars and restaurants in Hamilton it hasn't been the re-opening Lawrenson had hoped for.

"It does detract from the experience when they feel like they're being watched and there are rules in place when they just want to enjoy a nice meal."

Not to mention the steady stream of police popping in for a look around.

But those who finally managed to get out were happy.

"It was amazing, we've been stuck at home for how many weeks," one told Newshub.

But by 11pm it was all over. The new closing time on a Friday night.