Wimmera publicans are frustrated it is taking them longer to welcome back customers than it did after coronavirus restrictions first eased.
Nick Murray, of the Exchange Hotel, said regional Victorian businesses had earned the right to jump to COVID normal level earlier than the state government's roadmaps plan for.
"While it is nice to be open, having ten people in a maximum of two rooms inside really is completely unsustainable," he said.
"We are not designed to have so few numbers: If we are going to do 20 meals, or 40 meals in two sittings, we need the same number of staff in the kitchen as if we were doing 120 meals."
Regional Victoria moved to the Third Step of restrictions easing at 11:59pm on September 16, allowing them to offer outdoor dining with a patron cap. Before this, pubs, cafes and restaurants could only serve takeaway meals.
The Last Step will see the cap lift for outdoor dining but apply to indoor dining. After this a "COVID normal" situation will apply, were there are no restrictions on customer numbers.
Mr Murray, the Wimmera's Australian Hotels Association representative, said hotels were still facing the prospect of "falling off a debt cliff".
"Hotels cost $35,000 a month to have shut," he said. "We are very wary of our responsibilities and going the extra mile (to protect patrons), so the fact we are not open is really frustrating for publicans and staff.
Mr Murray hoped pubs were open for COVID normal business as usual by no later than October 19, and called for patience from the community.
"People are getting frustrated that they walk into the pub and see only ten people, but get told they can't be seated," he said. "There is probably a lack of understanding and our staff are feeling the brunt of that frustration. We are not making the rules, we are simply trying to enforce them."
The hotel has shared bedroom and bathroom facilities, and can only host guests from one household and their "social bubble" under step three easing of restrictions.
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"The most I could get in is two people if they were from different groups, because I've got two bathrooms," he said.
"I'm pretty sure workers still wouldn't be able to stay."
Like Mr Murray, Mr Morley said the maximum of 20 patrons inside rule made trading "unviable" for him.
"The first time, we could have one person per square metres, and because I have three different dining rooms and the bar, I could get up to 70 people in," he said.
"If you've got eight in the bar and four blokes want to come in, you have to tell them to go sit in the lounge."
Earlier this month, the government announced businesses could apply for grants of up to $5000 to purchase equipment to embrace outdoor dining during the roadmap out of lockdown.
Small Business Minister and Western Victoria upper house member for the government Jaala Pulford said applications would open on Thursday, October 1.
"The roadmap is about providing all Victorians with a sense of when we think it will be safe to take the next step, and that will continue to be informed by the public health advice team," she said.
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