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Despite fears the Orange traffic light level could mean “stop”, Central Otago and Upper Clutha hospitality businesses say it has been mostly “go” under the vaccine passport system.

Operators reported some difficulties with the introduction of the pass being mandated from Friday last week, with customers being unsure of details.

Others reduced hours as their staff were unvaccinated, with one popular eatery closing rather than choose between those it could employ or grant access to or not.

Under the traffic light system, businesses serving food and drinks to the public are required to check vaccine passports.

As of Tuesday, if a hospitality venue chooses not to use vaccine passes, it can open for contactless pick-up or delivery only.

Hospitality New Zealand Central Otago vice-president and The Gate complex general manager Glen Christiansen, of Cromwell, said staff had turned away 14 people on Friday for a variety of reasons unaware the mandate came into effect that day, some thought they could use the card they were given when vaccinated, while others did not have a pass.

The Gate staff assisted about 20 people to download the pass to their phones, he said.

In Wanaka, Ritual Cafe owners Chris Hadfield and Paul Tregea said the system was going well and customers were being compliant, but some needed Mr Hadfield’s help with IT issues.

Mr Hadfield said some customers were confused about what apps to use, some had printed their passes too small to be scanned, and some had taken out of focus screen shots of their printed passes, which did not scan well either.

“We are hoping by the time Auckland gets here, it will be the new normal. It is all about educating the public,” Mr Tregea said.

“We have chosen to ask everyone to wear a mask because it makes things easier .. it adds to that sense of wellbeing,” Mr Hadfield said.

Industry Lane Eatery front of house manager Talia Duncan said she spent Friday scanning passes from customers.

People had been polite but some were confused about where and when they needed to show passes.

The cafe has a contactless pickup operation for anyone without a vaccine pass but had to take one staff member out of service to scan customers dining in.

Jimmy’s Pies in Roxburgh has only provided contactless service for several months now, manager Kate Smith said.

“When we reopened when we came out of the last lockdown, we went contactless only, because we were having too many people in the shop,” she said.

“It worked well and we’ve stayed with it.”

Manager of the Benger Gardens Cafe in Ettrick Leandro Massariolo said he had to turn people away on Friday, and had lost “a good 30%” of his trade in the morning.

Several people had argued with staff over the mandate, Mr Massariolo said.

“It has created unnecessary stress.”

In Cromwell, Fusee Rouge Cafe owner Nicola Taylor said business on Friday went much better than expected, after sleepless nights anticipating problems.

Nobody in the industry wanted to have to refuse customers, she said.

“We’re in hospitality to be hospitable, not to turn people away.”

At Faigan’s Kitchen and Cafe in Millers Flat, co-owner Caroline Jessop said her problems were staff related, rather than with customers.

“We’ve had no issues but we’re a small staff and more than half our staff are not vaccinated so we have no staff,” she said.

The business has had to close on Mondays and Tuesdays as staff shortages prevented them opening seven days a week.

Going one step further was the Tarras Country Cafe, owned by Emily and Peter Todd, who posted a Facebook message last month, stating December 2 would be the cafe’s last day in business.

“I cannot, and will not run my business when I have to discriminate against who I can and can’t employ, and who I can and can’t let in my doors,” the post read.

When contacted, Mrs Todd repeated her belief the traffic light system was discriminatory and said she could not comply with it.