After months of uncertainty, Ballarat businesses are finally starting to see their path back to normality become a little bit more clear.
Easing COVID-19 restrictions have meant all manner of businesses have been able to start operating in somewhat of a familiar sense.
Craig's Royal Hotel manager John Finning said he and his staff have been overwhelmed with enthusiasm since the new restrictions started on Monday morning.
"There is definitely a sense that there is some light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
"I think there's certainly enthusiasm from our point of view... our phone hasn't stopped ringing since Monday."
He said the community support his business - which was bought for $12 million by The Black Rhino Group consortium just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit - has received has been tremendous as restrictions have continuously eased.
"I think people have gotten to the point where they haven't seen their friends and family for such an extended period, they want to get out and catch up with them while also supporting local businesses."
These sentiments were echoed by Adrian Misseri of Adrian Misseri Podiatry in Alfredton.
He said the fact bookings have begun to return to a more normal rate this week has been very encouraging to see, especially after he and his staff initially were very unsure of how the business would continue to operate during the pandemic.
"It's exciting, we're seeing the books fill up again," he added.
"It got quiet here for a period as people understandably were unsure about heading outside but the damage is starting to ease.
"In the early days we were all sitting here wondering what was going to happen. Fortunately we were able to continue trading.
"We're lucky that we're still here on the other side to be able to offer our service to patients."
Both Mr Finning and Mr Misseri admitted that this is only the beginning of a long road to recovery, a fact Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett stressed the importance of.
Ms Gillett implored the community to continue supporting local businesses in a big way for the foreseeable future as the impacts of COVID-19 will be long-lasting.
"It's absolutely critical that our community continues to support businesses during their recovery," she said.
It's going to be a slow process so we need the community to be there for them. Everybody needs to do everything they possibly can to support local industries.
"The concern is once life gets back to whatever the new normal is, some in the community may forget that our business community won't be back to normal."