COVID-19: The restaurants refusing to take part in traffic light system and check vaccine certificates

Some New Zealand businesses say they won't be asking for customers to present COVID-19 vaccine certificates when the traffic light system comes into effect.

On Friday, New Zealand will move to a new system of living - transitioning to the COVID Protection Framework or 'traffic light' system, which rates regions as red, orange or green depending on COVID-19 cases in the community and vaccination rates.

Auckland, the epicentre of New Zealand's Delta outbreak that's spent months in lockdown, will start at red along with Ruapehu, Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Wairoa, Gisborne, Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne, Kawerau, Rotorua Lakes and Taupō Districts. The rest of New Zealand will start at orange.

Even at red, hospitality and several other venues can reopen - so long as vaccine certificates are used.

Palmerston North's Coffee on Ascot said it had made some tough calls around the traffic light system.

"We have decided we won't be excluding anyone from our premise, discrimination is not why we opened our business. We opened with the hope of providing hospitality to all that walked through our doors," a post on the business's Facebook page said. 

It said the cafe was "a friendly face to serve up your favourite drinks".

As a result, the cafe would continue operating but only for click and collect - as per traffic light system rules.

"We hope you all understand our position and realise 2021 has been a difficult year for anyone in business. 

"Kia kaha to all the other businesses out there managing these difficult times." 

Dripping Bowl health food restaurant in Wānaka also won't ask customers to present a vaccine certificate.

The company said on social media one of its biggest core values was inclusivity.

"We want everyone to feel valued and heard in our community, no matter what."

It said they refused to entertain the idea and stood by the decision.

Tauranga's Little Guy Bagel and Brew said it wasn't willing to compromise its values.

"Because of this, we have decided that we at Little Guy will not be requiring any customer who chooses to partake in our services to provide their vaccine passports upon the launch of the traffic light system and to be a part of our community," the company said in a statement on Facebook.

"We understand that this presents some challenges and changes for our business and what it looks like to serve you physically, but it will never change our ethos and we will learn to adapt to continue to serve you.

"Little guy wouldn't be the community it is today without you, our loyal and diverse customers. We are and remain to be, your place of belonging."

On Tuesday, New Lynn's Lone Star restaurant was advertising for roles for people who weren't vaccinated against COVID-19, the NZ Herald reported

Under the traffic light system, vaccine mandates will apply to border workers, healthcare workers, education staff, all employees in hospitality, events, gatherings, close contact businesses and gyms. 

The Government has mandated vaccinations against COVID-19 for workers in certain industries and roles, with redeployment off the front lines possible for those who refuse, and introduced vaccine certificates in order to reduce the spread of the virus which has killed more than 5.2 million and infected nearly 263 million people around the world.

Vaccination not only significantly reduces the likelihood people will be infected with COVID-19 but also lowers the chance people will pass it onto someone else or fall seriously ill.

The New Lynn Lone Star ad has since been taken down. The restaurant owner declined to comment but the Lone Star franchise operations manager confirmed all of its franchises needed to obey Government health obligations, the Herald reported.

Other businesses Newshub has spoken to, however, are eager to open after receiving clairty about the new traffic light system.

"It's pretty easy, I've downloaded everything I need to go so we're ready to rock on December 3. I don't really have any qualms about it," said The Nail Lounge owner Debbie Walsh.

"I just can't wait to get open again," Walsh told Newshub last week

Playground Fitness NZ's Rhys Jolly said it was excited to open after more than 100 days in lockdown in Auckland.

"Pretty easy for us personally, we've always operated where you stay in your lane, so each lane is a minimum of a metre apart," he said of the new settings. "Bring on Friday." 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Auckland on Wednesday vaccine passes were part of the reason why New Zealand could open up safely.

"We're using them for a very good reason. It means that we don't have to have the same kind of restrictions that we've used before.

"I know the vast majority [of businesses] will recognise that this is a tool to enable them to be open and will be looking to support us by checking vaccine passes as they're obliged to do.

"With any requirement that we have, if we hear that's not occurring then there are penalties."