THE Border hospitality sector is floundering as the impact of tighter travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic hits home.
Eateries in Albury-Wodonga and surrounds have been forced to close where their owners lived outside the revised border zone needed for a travel permit or when servicing customers on only one side of the border wasn't viable.
Some chefs and staff living outside the zone have been cut off from their jobs too.
Wodonga-based La Maison Restaurant owner Wassim Saliba said he had temporarily closed his business on the Lincoln Causeway yesterday in response to the new restrictions, which came into effect at midnight on Tuesday.
Saliba said the lack of clarity around new travel permits, the loss of trade from Albury clients and the location of his restaurant were among his reasons for the closure.
He said restrictions would more than halve his clientele with Albury customers no longer allowed to cross the Murray River for dining out.
"We are closer to Albury CBD than Wodonga," he said.
"It's not viable for us to open up for customers on one side of the border."
Saliba said traffic congestion on northbound lanes of the Lincoln Causeway in the past fortnight was a constant reminder of the challenges facing the Border.
"The causeway is absolutely chockas for most of the day," Saliba said.
"There are long queues out the front of the restaurant; it's really disheartening when you're seeing people queueing for 40 minutes to an hour at the peak."
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Saliba said he would like to know how long the new restrictions would apply before considering a takeaway service again.
"If we're going to have to live with this for six months, then we'll need to change our business structure," he said.
"We can't use 16 staff to service one-third of the clientele (dining in)."
Saliba said the tougher restrictions came just as they were turning the corner.
"After Saturday's trade we were really rapt with the way things were climbing back after one-and-a-half weeks of negativity and people still very unsure about the border permits," Saliba said.
"It was a really positive sign at the weekend and we were thinking things were getting back to normal and we were gearing up for a busy week.
"But we really want to thank the community especially for their support on Monday and Tuesday.
"We are going to be back just as soon as the opportunity rises up!"
Wassim Saliba's brother, Carlos, who opened Victor Supper Club on the Lincoln Causeway late last year, said he would open Friday to Sunday to test the impact of the restrictions on trade.
"The border closure is like cutting the major artery of the Twin Cities," he said.
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