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'It's not a party' - Auckland bar owner lashes out at criticism over controversial '100-person party'

An Auckland bar owner is hitting back at criticism over reportedly hosting a 100-person party this weekend, denying it's a party at all.

HeadQuarters Bar owner Leo Molloy says his business isn't just a bar but a restaurant, allowed to open under the Alert Level 2 rules.

"We're entitled to be opened... I've done nothing wrong," he told 1 NEWS.

Outlined earlier this week, the rules allow for up to 100 people to gather in a single location, but individual groups must consist of no more than 10 people.

If you're part of one group, you can't meet up or socialise with people in other groups, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern previously clarified.

NZME previously reported Mr Molloy is planning a high-profile party this weekend, with 100 people invited.

Today he says that's not the case at all.

"There is no party. It's dinner, it's seated, it's dinner, it's a restaurant."

Around 85 people have been invited to the 150-seat restaurant, including Destiny Church's Brian and Hannah Tamaki and National deputy leader Paula Bennett.

Another 15 or so staff will also be there.

In a fiery interview with 1 NEWS, Mr Molloy also lashed out at Ms Ardern for "changing the rules". 

Previous Level 2 guidance allowed for 100 people to gather indoors and 500 outdoors, without the new 10-person limits.

Mr Molloy said the rule forbidding multiple groups of 10 is "bulls***".

"We're allowed 100 inside the building, she's changing the rules every five minutes. We did what we did."

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Kiwis have found new ways to connect during lockdown, so taking a step towards normality might seem daunting. Source: 1 NEWS

Restaurants are allowed to open from Thursday, but bars need to wait until next Thursday. The difference is decided by whether the venue primarily serves drinks or food.

HeadQuarters classifies itself as a bar in multiple places on its Facebook page, but Mr Molloy says he has a restaurant licence and he's "totally compliant".

As well as the 10-person limits, people need to be seated at separate tables with a single server per table.

"They're not allowed to interact between them. They're all socially safe, we've taken half the chairs out of the dining room, everything's set up," Mr Molloy says.

"It is grossly unfair that, yet again, media decide I'm a target just because I'm a natural leader. 

"All I've done here, I've reached out to the police, I've said to the industry I'm going to lead the way out of the wilderness here.

"I'm not being spectacular or dramatic here. If you want to follow suit, this is how I'm going to do it."

When asked about the reported party planning today, Ms Ardern reiterated that there can't be groups of more than 10.

"That's that consistency we've had across the board. We cannot have groups more than 10 socialising, mixing, mingling together," she says.

"That's why there are such strict rules around seating and so on within different parts of hospitality.

"It's not entirely clear to me what his intentions are."

In a statement to 1 NEWS, Auckland City district commander superintendent Karyn Malthus confirmed they've worked with the management at HeadQuarters as well as other hospitality business owners to make sure everything goes smoothly and safely.

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Seven Sharp has everything you need to know to move out of lockdown mode. Source: Seven Sharp

"It is incorrect to suggest police have approved any parties or events that would breach the rules of Alert Level 2 and Auckland Police do not and will not support HeadQuarters, or any establishment, opening and operating in contravention of Alert Level 2 requirements," she says.

Police say they're taking an "education-led approach".

"[This works] by engaging with individuals and organisations across the country to make sure people understand the new restrictions, and that businesses and organisations are operating safely and in accordance with the guidelines."

Mr Molloy is confident everything will go smoothly this weekend, saying he's "abso-total-lutely" sure his event sticks to the rules.

Restaurants and bars that do break the Level 2 restrictions risk getting shut down, Ms Ardern says.