Coronavirus: West Aucklanders bought a weekend's worth of booze in the hours before lockdown began

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday the country would be going into alert level 4 lockdown, west Aucklanders rushed to stock up on booze.

The head of the monopoly which controls alcohol sales in west Auckland says they sold as much alcohol that afternoon as they normally would over a whole weekend. 

"On Tuesday from about three o'clock until close, it was probably more like a Friday and Saturday night combined, in terms of sales," West Auckland Trust Services chief executive Alan Pollard told Newshub.

"It was an interesting time for us to try and mobilise the troops. But we'd just like to say how appreciative we are." 

There were reports on social media of massive queues forming and customers stocking up, perhaps expecting the lockdown to last longer than the initial week. 

A similar rush happened before last year's level 4 lockdown in March, with many Kiwis likely unaware stores in areas with licensing trusts could stay open, with limited numbers of people allowed inside at any one time.

West Auckland is one of those areas - while most Kiwis can get their grog at the supermarket, in west Auckland sales are almost exclusively controlled by the Trusts and sold at standalone off-licences, not in supermarkets. 

It made the region one of the few places Kiwis could get spirits and RTDs, prompting Aucklanders from elsewhere in the city to push the boundaries of what constituted essential travel. By early April, the Trusts stopped selling spirits and RTDs to reduce the temptation, sticking to the same drinks available elsewhere in the city - wine, cider and beer. 

The Trusts have followed the lead of the supermarket chains and given their staff a 10 percent bonus during the lockdown.

"They are taking some real risks, much like other essential workers - taking a significant risk by leaving their bubble... we just thought we had to show some recognition for that." 

They've also brought in a no mask, no service policy

"We just felt it was the best policy for our staff and for our customers... our number one priority. Anything we can do to add another level of protection and support for our people is something that we felt was good."

Pollard said he went around a few of the stores on Friday and everyone seemed happy with the rule.

"We've had a few customers come in [without masks], I think they just don't know. There's been no aggressive customers. Where possible, if we've got some spare masks we'll give them to customers. Certainly, I think it's just a learning process... but for the most part, everyone is compliant."