BENDIGO diners have eaten their first meals in-venue, as restrictions eased for the hospitality sector.
Cafes, pubs and restaurants were able to re-open for eating-in to up to 20 patrons in a space under eased restriction in effect from Monday.
But many have remained closed, citing fear of a virus resurgence and the financial unviability of patron limits.
Brewhouse Coffee Roasters Bendigo opened for the first time since late March on Monday.
Manager Jake Mellington said the morning had been a lot quieter than normal, as staff at many businesses that would bring trade were working from home.
But he said response had been great from those coming in.
Up to 20 patrons are allowed inside the cafe, and another 10 outdoors. Government regulations permit a maximum of six people per group.
The Brewhouse's capacity was previously about 100 people.
Mr Mellington said the space was already set out appropriately for socially distant dining, but a few seats had been spaced out.
The cafe is relying on walk-in trade, rather than taking bookings.
Most patrons had come in for both food and coffee when Mr Mellington spoke to the Bendigo Advertiser.
He said during busy periods the cafe would probably only let those eating as well as having a coffee dine-in.
Bendigo Corner Store Cafe and Spring Gully General Store are among the cafes remaining open for takeaway only.
Owner Adam Nicoletti said staff had weighted things up and decided to keep both venues closed for now.
Both are offering takeaway, drinks and heat-and-eat meals at limited hours.
"We weighed up financials, health, customer safety, all of those things, as to whether people want to come out," Mr Nicoletti said.
"Although Bendigo's not high risk, it's still a risk. I don't know if the customer confidence is there for coming out."
Mr Nicoletti said lots of cafes in the same position. He attributed this in part to a lower average dollar spend in cafes than in restaurants.
He said customers had been very positive in response to the decision to stay closed.
Mr Nicoletti was yet to set a date for re-opening the eating-in aspect of the business.
He said would need to see customer confidence return to make that decision.
At central Bendigo cafe Hoo.Gah owner Gina Triolo was preparing to re-open by Tuesday June 9.
Ms Triolo said she decided to close fully in late March to help flatten the curve, and because it was not viable to remain open.
"I was actually happy to close and remain closed for a certain period of time. It was okay for us, we were able to manage that ... and just feel safer about coming back," she said.
"It was better for us to close at that stage. We will take our time to reopen until we feel ready to."
But Ms Triolo was finding the new dine-in regulations ambiguous.
She said she was anxious to make sure the cafe did everything right.
"There's a lot of stuff going on in my head about what we have to make sure," she said.
"I don't want my staff to get it. I don't want to get it myself. I don't want my customers to be in a situation where there's a chance of getting it."
Several Bendigo pubs have also remained closed.
Kangaroo Flat Hotel licensee David Campbell said the added costs of re-opening would outweigh the extra takings.
"The onerous cost that will be associated with utilities, cranking everything up, extra staff to cover the cleaning, table service, then having to open the bar side of it, the machinery," he said.
"The costs for the 20 you can get in ... wouldn't cover that."
Mr Campbell said lifting the four square metres per person rule was what would make the difference to his ability to open.
Courthouse Hotel publican's wife Donna Wilson said limited numbers and concerns about a second wave of COVID-19 had kept the business dine-in arm closed.
The pub would only be able to fit about 10 people in its dining room.
Mrs Wilson said it would make a huge difference when the public bar could reopen.
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