For husband-and-wife team Joan Miles and Roger Gooding, live music at their Mair Street wine bar will assist on the road to recovery.
The couple, with their daughter, Melissa, opened RJM's Wine Bar in mid-2019, unaware of the awaiting chaos. Having struggled for two years, Ms Miles and Mr Gooding have received a grant of $7800 from the federal government to bring artists to their venue.
Mr Gooding is full of anticipation.
"We are going to use (the grant) to bring in musicians," he said.
"We're hoping we'll become known as a live music venue. Primarily, we're concentrating on Ballarat and local musicians."
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A bevy of wines, as well as coffee and light meals, will be on offer.
"We decided the quality of local wine was so amazing," Mr Gooding said.
"There's nothing from France or Italy or even from interstate.
"We didn't want to sell anything we hadn't tasted and couldn't endorse.
"(When testing wines) the only argument we had, because someone had to be the designated driver, was on heavy red days!"
For Ms Miles, formerly an accountant, and Mr Gooding, previously a secondary school teacher for three decades, finding the ideal spot was a process.
"It took us three years to find the right building with the right ambiance," Ms Miles said.
"The only other buildings for sale were a box. I thought, 'We don't want a box!'"
Much work has been done to create a European art deco feel with matching gardens.
The early months of operation were challenging, but there were encouraging signs.
"We had this enormously steep learning curve," Mr Gooding said.
"We were exploring ways as to how best to advertise ourselves. We learnt the value of word of mouth."
Unfortunately, an immense blow was imminent.
"We were just starting to become established," Ms Miles said.
"Our customer numbers were increasing. Then COVID hit."
We had this enormously steep learning curve.- Roger Gooding
When closed, there was pressure financially and psychologically.
"We've gone through some pretty dark times," Mr Gooding said.
"They've been pretty grim, let's just leave it at that."
Uncertainty was a constant.
"You don't know when it's going to end," Mr Gooding said.
"You don't know when you're going to open. Initially, you don't know, when you come out of lockdown, what the reaction is going to be so that was fairly scary."
Thankfully, there is hope on the horizon after a protracted struggle.
"It's not only our business, but our whole family, so it was quite hard," Ms Miles said.
"But we feel that things are improving now and we're optimistic."
The venue is currently open on Fridays from 5pm until 7pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm to 5pm. It is also available for functions, such as weddings, birthdays, and baby showers. When the live music starts on October 22, Friday times will be extended until 9pm.
One act set to go is Well Strung, with Lyndon Kriss and Adam Seery. The duo will be performing on November 28.
Amazingly, Mr Gooding has maintained his humour. When questioned about what is consumed by those with a child during a baby shower, Mr Gooding smirked.
"Lemon, lime, and bitters is the elixir of choice for ladies in a delicate condition."
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