MASONS of Bendigo is planning for a June 2 opening, following the premier's announcement this morning.
Husband and wife team Nick and Sonia Anthony were pleased, relieved and excited to be able to plan to welcome diners back into the restaurant for the first time since March 21.
"We've got a date. We can start putting our plans together," Mr Anthony said.
"It's great we've got two weeks to get ourselves organised."
The restaurant will initially open for dinner service Tuesday - Saturday and offer lunch service from Thursday - Saturday.
Masons will be closed on Sundays and Mondays, just as it was before COVID-19.
"We're trying to keep it so it's viable," Mr Anthony said of the initial reduction in lunch openings.
Ms Anthony said the first six -12 months after re-opening would be crucial for the business.
"We're really relying on the community to come on the journey with us," she said.
Dishes would be plated up individually, even for those ordering from a roaming banquet menu - another slight change from the Masons people knew before the outbreak of COVID-19.
But Mr and Mrs Anthony said the restaurant would be every bit as dedicated to providing diners with the best possible experience, especially one in which their guests felt safe.
They stressed the importance of support from initiatives like JobKeeper, especially while diner numbers were restricted.
"We've kept all our staff on since the shutdown on JobKeeper," Mr Anthony said.
He said continued support from JobKeeper would be essential in the short-term, while table service was limited to 20 diners.
"All going well, covers can increase in a very short period of time," Mr Anthony said.
He was looking forward to when all industries could start re-opening, noting there were still a lot of industries for whom that seemed to be a while away.
"We honestly feel the Bendigo community has supported the hospitality industry," Mr Anthony said.
"Everyone's very excited about our industry re-opening."
A PLAN to start reopening Victoria's eateries for more than just takeaway meals has excited members of Bendigo's hospitality industry.
The National Hotel Complex's Bruce Morcom was looking forward to learning more about the detail to accompany today's announcement.
But he said, "It's a step in the right direction, that's for sure."
The Woodhouse's Paul Pitcher has spent much of the time since in-house service stopped preparing for the day the restaurant could welcome diners back.
"The restaurant's ready now," he said.
Much of the next two weeks would be spent training up on the rules all Victorian eateries would need to comply with to safely re-open for table service.
"There's going to be so much we're going to have to do," Mr Pitcher said.
But, if that's what needed to be done, that's what he said restaurants would do.
Mr Pitcher said he was looking forward to learning more of the detail in the plan.
He still expected that a dining experience would be different to what it had been before the outbreak of COVID-19, with smaller menus and shorter seatings.
"We're still going to have to try to maximise what we do," Mr Pitcher said.
PREMIER Daniel Andrews has foreshadowed a return to dining in eateries from June 1.
Eateries would initially be able to cater for up to 20 diners in an enclosed space, with a proposed increase to 50 patrons from June 22.
A 100 patron limit is envisaged by the second half of July.
Mr Andrews said the relaxation to restrictions preventing dining-in was dependent on testing and COVID-19 case numbers in the next two weeks, and "how well everyone sticks to the rules and does the right thing."
The premier said businesses would need to adhere to the four-metre-square rule at all times and follow strict safety guidelines - including extra cleaning, staff health screening and temperature checks.
The proposed relaxation in restrictions would be for table service only.
Venues would have to keep patrons' contact details, to assist with tracing COVID-19 cases.
In a statement on social media, Mr Andrews said the state's ongoing testing blitz had been cause for cautious optimism and had given Victoria's Chief Health Officer the confidence to make some changes.
"But if we see a sudden upswing in cases or breaches of the rules, we'll have to review and potentially retighten restrictions," he said.
"We have a roadmap to help Victoria's cafes, restaurants and pubs safely reopen. And it's up to all of us to make it work."
Read the premier's statement in full:
Earlier this week, we made a number of announcements on easing restrictions in Victoria. These decisions were informed by data - including the biggest testing blitz in the nation and one of the highest testing rates in the world.
At the same time, we asked Victorians to use common sense when it came to deciding what they could do - and who they could do it with.
We also said, that for the moment, there would be no changes to restrictions on cafes, restaurants and pubs while we undertook more testing.
After smashing through our goal of 50,000 tests in the last week, the results of this data has given us the confidence we need to plan to slowly start lifting some more restrictions.
Today, and informed by the advice of the Chief Health Officer, I can announce our cautious and careful next steps.
The continuing low numbers of community transmission and the high rates of testing give us confidence that cafes, restaurants, pubs and other hospitality businesses can begin planning for a phased re-opening from the beginning of June.
From 1 June - cafes, restaurants and pubs will be able to reopen their doors to serve meals to up to 20 customers at a time per enclosed space.
From 22 June - this could increase to up to 50 patrons.
During the second half of July, up to 100.
The timelines we're announcing today are reliant on Victorians continuing to get tested when they show even mild symptoms and on those tests continuing to show low numbers of positive cases around the state.
Before each of these dates, the Chief Health Officer will review the rates of community transmission in Victoria, confirm our ability to test, trace and respond to possible outbreaks and make sure we have an adequate safety net in the health system - before we take the steps outlined.
This industry has told us they need time to plan and prepare to protect the safety of their staff and customers. Making these announcements now will be giving them that time.
The hospitality industry is one of the pillars of the Victorian economy and has been among the hardest hit by this pandemic - re-opening the venues we all love is a critical piece of the puzzle in saving jobs and restoring our local communities.
We need to be really clear though: this is not a done deal. These timelines will depend on how we're tracking.
And just as we've used evidence to inform our decisions the whole way through this - these next steps will be no different.
If, in the coming weeks, we see a sudden upswing in community exposures from an unknown source - we may have to make the call to delay.
Similarly, if an initial opening led to a whole series of uncontrolled crowds or breaches -we'd look at that pretty seriously too.
A number of precautions will be put in place to guide these changes.
All venues will need to abide by existing physical distancing requirements of one person per four square metres. Tables will also need to be spaced at least 1.5 metres apart.
Venues will be required to take the contact details of every customer to assist in rapid contact tracing.
And there'll be other safety requirements too, including extra cleaning, staff health screening and temperature checks.
Further work will need to be done on how we manage shared areas like entrances and bathrooms, and will be done in consultation with the industry and unions and on the advice of our public health team.
Once in place, these changes will apply to standalone restaurants and cafes, as well as restaurants and bistros within a pub, hotel, bar, registered and licensed club, RSL or community club.
Restrictions on other spaces within these kinds of venues - including public bars and gaming areas - will remain in place throughout June, as will restrictions on food courts.
As we take these important steps, we must also continue to make a number of sacrifices, as the cumulative effect of easing too much too soon could undo all the hard work we have done together.
That means, for most Victorians the advice has not changed: if you can work from home - you must work from home.
I know many of us are missing seeing our colleagues and our work friends in-person.
Sharing lunch in the staff room. Morning tea for a birthday. And maybe a sneaky knock-off beer after work.
But right now, the science is very clearly telling us that we can't afford to take that risk.
We can't have millions of people moving across our state - particularly around the Melbourne CBD - touching elevator buttons or opening front doors.
In fact, we probably won't be able to return to work as we know it for some time.
As always, we're asking Victorians to take on their share of the responsibility in all this.
After all, it's up to each of this to make this work.
None of us want to be responsible for seeing the gains we have made together disappear.
And for every action or activity we can resume - there will be others that we just can't.
For now, and for the foreseeable future, this must be our new normal.
Lives and livelihoods are counting on it.
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