BENDIGO's hospitality owners have welcomed the lifting of restrictions on the number of patrons they can have in their venues, but still face an industry-wide battle to find enough staff to return to regular trading.
Sharon Lock of Borchelli Ristorante said it was a relief to no longer have to worry about limiting patron numbers from Friday morning.
"We're over the moon, everything is going to go back to normal. Elvis (the exhibition) is coming and everything is going to go back to normal,'' she said.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Thursday that the density and capacity limits on hospitality businesses would be removed for fully vaccinated customers. Patrons would be allowed back on the dance floor and to stand up at bars. Masks will still be required by staff in some circumstances.
Bendigo-based spokesman for the Australian Hotels Association, Ray Sharawara, said the lifting of restrictions would make an enormous difference to large venues.
"Those venues have suffered really badly,'' he said.
"About 12 weeks ago the government decided to give good financial assistance to the industry based on venue capacity. That is obviously going to be scaled back considerably or ceased altogether very soon.
"A lot of the detail has not been released but for now this is welcome good news. Now we just hope the rest of the people who are not vaccinated get vaccinated for their own sake."
The changes will mean that businesses won't have to shut down entire staff teams for lengthy periods of isolation after exposure to positive cases. "The vast majority of people who come into contact with a confirmed positive case outside their home won't have to self-quarantine,'' Mr Andrews said.
"These contacts will be required to get a standard test and isolate until they get a negative result. This means exposure in places like offices, restaurants or nightclubs won't automatically result in quarantine for the patrons or staff, who previously would have been designated Primary Close Contacts at Tier 1 exposure sites."
Mr Sharawara said the industry was still grappling with the lack of chefs and other hospitality staff available to hire across Victoria. "The situation with the shortage of staff is not going away and it will mean that there are restrictions on opening hours. You can't open without staff."
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