WITH two of the biggest sporting events of the year happening on the one day, Ballarat pubs could have hoped for a bumper return to business.
But while Melburnians will be confined to their homes, regional pubs are selling out quicker than they can open, particularly in places like Geelong as the Cats look to bring home the AFL premiership against Richmond.
While Geelong is the centre of attention in regional areas this weekend, it is hoped fans of both the Cats and the Tigers, and sporting fans in general, will make it a night to remember across Ballarat.
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Like many pubs in Ballarat, the Sporting Globe has already sold out its available spots for Saturday night.
It is running $100 premium ticket package with the match to be shown across the 30 screens in the pub. It is planned to get it special event underway from 7pm and run throughout the night, as far as compliance allows.
Franchisee Anne Alexander said the Sporting Globe would be able to have 40 diners spread across four rooms, 10 per room, and a further 70 people outside.
"When the announcement came on Sunday, we were able to put a post on Facebook saying we were able to offer an extra 40 tickets," she said.
"So we can have 110 people all up now, it's still well below our capacity of 450 though, but it will be good to have a few people around."
The Western Hotel, which also has a large outdoor area has also sold out its dinner packages, but other pubs like The Mallow which, also have large outdoor areas, won't be running any special packages with poor weather expected on the night.
Red Lion manager David Canny said the pub was booked out for Saturday night, but was disappointed at the lack of flexibility around new rules limiting numbers inside.
"It works out for us to be four rooms of 10 and we've got space for 60 outside," he said.
"We're sold out, but it's an event we would have normally had about 500 in for. We've got Cox Plate as well during the day.
"I feel sorry for a lot of small little pubs, they might only have two rooms. It's as though they are making up the rules as they go."
One of those smaller pubs is the Royal Oak which said due to its rooms and lack of outside space, it was not holding any special event. Brown Hill Hotel will also sell out for the night, but size means only a handful of people will be able to eat in the bistro.
"We're limited to 15 outside due to the size even though we're licensed for 80 in the bistro and 70 in a bar, so it's not going to make much of a difference to us," a spokesman said.
The Golf House Hotel in Ballarat North is another that will do its best to cater for as many as it can.
"It's a new compliance, so we'll have to work through that," manager Karen Rowan said.
"We'll still have the game on the screen, and we're allowed people across all our rooms. We've got room for 50 people outdoors which we've been making the most of.
"We've got five areas, but we're basically booked out already."
It is understood that many of Geelong's hotels and pubs have also sold out for the night, with the Sporting Globe franchise in that city selling out its allotted tickets within 90 minutes.
Richmond's famed bars along Swan Street, Bridge Road and Hoddle Street will remain closed with Premier Daniel Andrews saying while further easing of restrictions were now likely, they would not come until at least Sunday.
Enjoy AFL Grand Final the right and safe way say police
By Hayley Elg
Enjoy this weekend's AFL Grand Final in a COVID-safe way, the region's police superintendent said.
While regional Victorians will be able to enjoy this year's grand final with more social freedoms than Melburnians, it will still be very different to how the day would typically be celebrated.
Superintendent Jenny Wilson encouraged the community to enjoy the game, but while adhering to the directions of the Chief Health Officer.
Following a slight easing of restrictions this week, regional Victorians will be able to host two adults plus dependents at their homes to watch the big game between Geelong and Richmond.
Superintendent Wilson said while people might be tempted to host a big grand final celebration at their homes as they normally would, doing so was against the current health advice.
"We ask people to adhere to the health directions because they are there for a reason," she said.
Pubs, meanwhile, will be able to host up to 40 people inside and 70 outside.
Superintendent Wilson encouraged people to go out and support local businesses, but in a COVID-safe way.
To ensure the community adheres to restrictions, there will be extra police working throughout the long weekend - particularly on Saturday night.
But rather than it being purely a law enforcement issue, Superintendent Wilson said police wanted to work with businesses and the community so everybody could enjoy the night in a safe environment.
Superintendent Wilson encouraged responsible alcohol consumption and for people to be mindful of the impact of intoxication.
As well as increased foot patrols, police will also be running a road policing operation throughout the weekend.
Superintendent Wilson appealed for people not to drink or drug drive, a decision which puts not only the driver and their passengers, but also the wider community, at risk.
Recent statistics from the Crime Statistics Agency revealed the number of fines issued for coronavirus restriction breaches in the region.
Police issued 82 fines in the City of Ballarat, in addition to 38 in Moorabool Shire, 31 in Hepburn Shire, seven in Golden Plains Shire and two in Pyrenees Shire in the year ending June.
These numbers are lower than in other major regional centres, with police issuing 110 fines in Greater Bendigo and 213 in Greater Geelong.
Superintendent Wilson said residents of Ballarat and surrounding areas had done "exceptionally well" in following the rules during the last few months, as well as supporting each other.
"As the community opens up, we are really looking for that to continue," Superintendent Wilson said.
Police will not hesitate to issue fines to anyone found to be deliberately breaching the Chief Health Officer's directions this weekend.
To report a coronavirus breach, contact the Police Assistance Line on 131 444.