Ballarat businesses have expressed their frustration after the state government announced eased restrictions that could prevent some from opening viably while keeping others closed.
Under the new restrictions, which take effect across regional Victoria excluding Shepparton from 11.59pm Thursday night, hospitality businesses will only be able to open for seated service for 10 patrons indoors and 20 outdoors. Meanwhile, all retail will reopen subject to a one person per four square metre density limit.
Sport and recreation also remains severely limited, with all indoor venues closed and outdoor training limited to groups of 10.
For some businesses, the much-anticipated announcement came as a disappointment as the restrictions would make reopening potentially unfeasible.
Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett said while the eased restrictions were welcome, it put some businesses in a difficult position.
"There are many sectors that, if they open with these restrictions, will be haemorrhaging money every day and every minute that they're open, which is something that they just can't afford to do," she said.
"For some, it's been just absolute disappointment that they are still unable to open, even though their businesses or their venues have safe spaces, if you like.
"It's absolutely critical that they're given the reassurance that the government support packages will remain to support businesses who have restricted trade, whether they open or not."
Ms Gillett said Commerce Ballarat was asking for the government to reassess restrictions on settings such as indoor sports venues.
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The Ballarat Tennis Club, the region's home of real tennis, is one of the many indoor sporting venues affected by the restrictions despite the sport being socially-distanced by nature.
Head professional Andrew Fowler said the club was disappointed venues such as its Larter Street home were unable to reopen.
"It's just one of those things where we can never really get going because we're stopping and starting all the time," he said.
"We have been lucky that we've had some financial support from the Victorian government in a few stages and hopefully, we'll get some more but we sort of seem to be gathering momentum for a couple of weeks and members are coming in which is great, and then all of a sudden we get into another lockdown."
Hospitality operators are concerned the restrictions will mean opening could be unviable.
Australian Hotels Association Victorian president Dave Canny, from Main Road's Red Lion Hotel, said it was a "good start'' but clarity was desperately needed.
"We're assuming business support grants will remain in place, but we need a really clear path so we know what the next step is, to get viable and get staff back to work,'' he said.
"We will open, but we want to get out staff back to work and engage with our regulars, we'll take a positive from that, but it's not viable - we always said we want to trade our way back to prosperity, but we need some capacity.
"To limit numbers this dramatically is just overkill, it's a really lazy way to do it, there should have been more consideration on size of venues and how different venues can manage people, and do it in a COVID-safe way, rather than just put a number on it."
The City Oval Hotel's Rob Gayton said he had been overwhelmed by people trying to squeeze in bookings for the weekend since the announcement on Wednesday morning.
"To make it even half viable, it'll be all day meals, and we'll have to restrict people to when you finish, you have to get out, that sort of thing, it's pretty silly," he said.
"They're messing with our heads, every time we've opened it's a different set of rules, it's like playing footy with different rules each game."
"Someone asked, 'why do you bother opening, it's costing you money?', and I said yeah, but my it's my sanity, having something to do, and giving the staff something - at least I'm here and coming up with ideas."
Down the road at Mair Street's Freight Bar, owner Chris Sargent said under the current numbers, he'd be operating at just six per cent capacity.
"To be honest I don't think it will be viable without the continuation of government support in some form," he said.
"We are going to be mapping out what we can do with sitting times and all inclusive packages to budget what we potentially could take, versus what it will cost to open again.
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"Let;s just hope case numbers remain low in regional and we can see it ease back a bit further."
The state government said business support would go ahead as planned with full payments for the fortnight to September 16 and it would assess which sectors remain 'severely impacted' before making announcements on payments for the next fortnight.
More information on state government support is available online.
Are you a business owner in need of support? Commerce Ballarat's free mental health clinician is available. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 53 333 233 or 0439 932 063, or phone Partners in Wellbeing 1300 375 330
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