Business leaders are urging border residents to show their loyalty to Wodonga and other North-East Victoria hospitality outlets as they emerge from the second COVID-19 lockdown.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants in regional Victoria were allowed to open on Thursday for the first time in seven weeks, but compared to rivals on the other side of the border they are operating below full capacity with strict limits on numbers, where they can sit and how long they can spend at a venue.
Outlets have spent the last 48 hours scrambling to find staff, order stock and prepare for predominantly outdoor dining despite the region being COVID free for more than two months.
The earliest they could operate at full capacity is late November in line with the state's road map out of restrictions.
"In these unprecedented times these great businesses have never needed the support of local people more," Business Wodonga chairman Graham Jenkin said.
"These businesses purchase from local suppliers and employ local people."
Australian Industry Group regional manager Tim Farrah said the regional hospitality industry was paying an unnecessary price for onerous restrictions to open up again.
"To have kitchen staff and other staff employed you need volume," he said.
"The restrictions need to lift further in regional Victoria to give these businesses a chance to recover.
"With no COVID locally, there is no reason why we can't take the next step now.
"They just can't snap back to full capacity after a second period of hibernation."
Mr Farrah said given the COVID situation locally and steeper fines for people illegally fleeing Melbourne a serious discussion was needed to open Victoria-NSW border well ahead of the flagged Christmas end date.
"We're very pleased to see the loosening of restrictions and the increase in the size of the border region is absolutely fantastic for the local business economy," he said.
"But we can't escape the broader damage being done to the Victorian economy.
"With restrictions in place on travel out of Melbourne there is no justification for the Victorian-NSW border to be shut.
"We would ask the NSW Premier to re-open it as a matter of urgency."
Wodonga's Goods Shed in Junction Square re-opened yesterday with owner Dan O'Connell confirming a major seating reconfiguration had to take place to accommodate the maximum 50 people allowed outside and 20 people seated inside.
"We've had to spread tables out and have got permission off the landlord to get more tables into place," he said.
"We're able to max out what they are saying we can do at the moment.
Mr O'Connell said the business would operate at only 20 per cent of its total seating capacity under the step allowed this week.
"It's good a start," he said.
The Birallee Tavern has also opened and been booked out on first night.
"We're still disappointed we couldn't get more capacity by having more people seated inside," owner Ben Stewart said.
"Two groups of 10 people inside is hard to take considering what we did after the first lockdown.
"But we're open and we're getting a marquee put up on the deck.
"Hopefully as the world improves and we improve things will get better."