Hospitality providers in Ararat and the Grampians region have been hit hard by COVID restrictions the past 18 months, but there is some good news on the horizon.
Providers in the region have had two weeks with their venues open to the whole of Victoria under the COVID vaccination rules and it has been a busy time for many.
Chally's Bar and Bistro manager Bonaventure Tai said business had "bounced back" in the past week.
"The last week has certainly been a bit of a turnaround," he said.
"The second week of full operation has seen some positive outcomes."
Mr Tai said the bistro did not see an influx of customers right away.
"It has been a gradual return, not just for visitors but even for locals," he said.
"As the opening was brought forward, I don't think the public was quite ready.
"People are still a little skeptical about going out."
Mr Tai said since the re-opening of the state the establishment had not encountered much defiance from customers regarding vaccination status.
"It has been a challenge," he said.
"We have had some resistance from certain individuals, but that is inevitable."
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Mr Tai said when the vaccination mandate was brought forward Chally's was not as affected as other businesses.
"We weren't as disrupted as some places would have experienced in town," he said.
"Our ability to communicate with our staff throughout the lockdown on our internal platform gave our people enough time to think about it and get vaccinated.
"It is not the first time we are coming back from it, we have learnt to adapt
"With it being brought forward really did put a dampener on my colleagues around town.
"It is one of the industries which has suffered the most throughout these COVID-19 restrictions.
"Thankfully our locals have been very supportive of the hospitality industry."
Vines Cafe & Bar owner Esa Besheia said business had picked up in recent weeks.
"We have had more business for sure," he said.
"More customers have come, which has meant business has gone up."
Mr Besheia said his staff were ready to go when the restrictions were eased.
"All of our staff were vaccinated before the mandate was introduced," he said.
"We were prepared and everyone had it done before it was announced."
Pomonal Estate owners Adam and Pepita Atchison said it had been "nuts" so far at their venue, with a busy summer holiday period coming.
Mrs Atchison said it was delightful to have metro and regional Victoria customers back at their venue, with all the customers doing their bit.
"Everyone has been patient and everyone has been really good," Mrs Atchison said.
"It has been good, we have had some people here and there has been a great atmosphere.
"People have been happy and ready to have some fun and talk."
But like many venues in the region, the reopening has coincided with a lack of hospitality workers in the Grampians.
"A lot of the venues are running on less staff because of the mandate being brought forwards," Mr Atchison said.
"We didn't have four of our workers and we are also looking for more chefs too.
"We will have to be in the kitchen until we can find some replacements.
"But some workers lost their jobs in the industry and needed work somewhere else and now they have found a job that is different and they're not coming back."
Mr and Mrs Atchison have hired three staff, all based in Pomonal, and said they will keep doing their best to ensure their doors are open.
"We employ a lot of locals and our daughters work here as well," Mrs Atchison said.
"Anyone local, we try to keep them working here.
"We have just got to keep growing. We have added so much on during COVID and you can't stop now.
"The day you stop is the day you die.
"We have had our challenges, everyone has.
"As long as our staff are okay, they are our duty of care, and our customers are doing the right thing, that's all we can do."
In the lead up to what is expected to be a very busy summer holiday period, Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said more support is needed for businesses.
"The forward bookings look extremely solid moving forward into December and January and they are all at capacity which is fantastic news for our operators," he said.
"The job issue has been amplified with the double vaccination requirements under the COVID restrictions and it has certainly impacted a number of restaurants that haven't been able to reopen."
Mr Sleeman said addressing the issues was one of Grampians Tourism's highest priorities in the lead up to summer.
"There is considerable concern for businesses across the region and a real uncertainty about how they will manage the Christmas peak period."
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