Bill Perry, who owns pubs in Wodonga and Melbourne, wants to see the devil in the detail before embracing Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' plan to prepare hotels for outdoor dining this summer.
He said the still to be confirmed available patron numbers would be the clincher whether he re-opens Huon Hill Hotel in Wodonga and the London Tavern in Richmond under step three of the road map to a COVID normal for regional and city settings.
Grants of $5000 are available to Victorian pubs, restaurants and cafes with a payroll of less than $3 million to purchase umbrellas, outdoor furniture and screens in preparation for "predominantly" outdoor dining this summer.
But Mr Perry needed certainty on numbers he could bring to his pubs before he considered re-opening.
"You've got to pay more staff to run food out to the street and if you are capped at 40 people the numbers just don't add up," he said.
"A lot of people didn't open when it was 20 people (before the second lockdown) and were waiting for 50 people to be allowed, but we didn't get there.
"How can you a run a business on 40 customers when you need 80 to break even?"
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He said staff at Huon Hill had crunched the numbers on outdoor dining and estimated a maximum 107 spots were available.
"But what happens if it pours rain?" Mr Perry said.
"Are you allowed to bring them inside while it stops?
"And at the other end of the spectrum who wants to sit outside on a 40 degree day and we get a few of those in Wodonga don't we?
Mr Perry said the hotel industry had already demonstrated its ability to operate COVID-safe between the first and second lockdowns.
Mr Andrews said: "We're the cultural and dining capital of our nation.
"That means, when it comes to reimagining what eating and
entertainment means under COVID Normal, there's no one better equipped than Melbourne and Victoria."
"It will be our innovation, ideas and creativity that will help us find and maintain our COVID normal".
But member for Benambra Bill Tilley is also sceptical.
"This plan is a long way short of delivering an economically viable operation for these businesses and short-sighted when it comes to practicalities and customer expectations," he said.
"Imagine being in a tent in a carpark on a day when the temperature reaches 30 plus degrees, the flies are out or its pelting rain.
"This is North-East Victoria, our weather can be temperamental.
"Pubs, cafes and restaurants just want to open their doors and all these grants and promises are just a placebo for ongoing prosperity of business and community.
"These businesses know how to keep us safe, they already have well-developed COVID-safe plans and understand the threshold between profitability and safety."
Many of Victoria's 1450 hotels and pubs are facing financial ruin through the disproportionate effects of the Andrews government's COVID restrictions with almost 52,000 employees being stood down, according to the Australian Hotels Association.