THE beers will be flowing (with meals) from Monday, and Ballarat's community pubs can't wait to welcome back their regular clientele for a reunion almost three months in the making.
So often the lifeblood of the community, the hospitality industry has been one the most affected during the COVID-19 shutdown, but from next week up to 20 people can dine in a room. For those pubs that have more than one room, it means a return to almost normality.
Grapes Hotel publican Tony Mardling said the pub will open from noon to 8.30pm, serving meals and alcohol with meals throughout the day.
"We're fortunate we've actually got two areas and we're able to fit 20 into one and 16 into another," Mr Mardling said.
"We'll be open all day with our regular meals available, but the bar will not operate as usual and you'll only be able to get a drink with your meal.
"We'll only serve meals until 8.30pm, but we'll have them going continuously. We'll also be opening for takeaway and our whole menu will be available for that.
"We're looking to get back into it, it's been near enough to 10 weeks we've been closed."
The Mallow Hotel is another set to open its doors on Monday.
Owner Dallas Robb said The Mallow could operate for 45 people across its five dining areas. "We'll be having two-hour sittings from about 5pm-7pm and then another from about 7.30pm," he said.
"We're looking forward to seeing all the regulars back and getting the menu going again because that's what The Mallow is known for.
"People are very excited to socialise with friends and given what we've been through the past few months, we're really excited to be able to do something different."
Mr Robb said The Mallow had been thrilled that so many regulars had made it a weekly pilgrimage to get takeaway from the pub during the lockdown, with beer sales remaining strong.
"We've been fortunate not to slow down too much with our beer, but obviously you do get a much bigger turnover as people come in for their meals as well," he said.
The Red Lion will also open up in multiple rooms with a capacity of around 80 patrons. However the gaming room will remain shut.
"We'll slowly ease into it," owner David Canny said. "We've got five separate dining areas and we'll segregate throughout the venue. There's a bit of jiggling around to do.
"Food and beverage is a massive part of our business and we've had groups of our staff working together on training, extra hygiene, how to direct people where to sit and that type of thing."
Black Hill Pub owner Kyle Ponder said it had been a tough few months, but he had been able to take the opportunity to give the pub a refresher.
"We're opening for bookings only. Right now, we'll be opening every day from Monday, but we'll see what works and what's viable going forward," he said.
"We've been doing takeaway and we'll continue to do that, it's been really tough, but it's great to be able to open all our doors."
Mr Canny, who is also the Australian Hotels Association Victoria president, said the return of the hospitality industry was not just about pubs.
"It's important we get people back to work but just for the industry, for everyone associated including things like the supply chain," he said.
"I implore everyone, let's do this well, let's do the right thing, and then that way we can see a loosening of restrictions even sooner."
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