Many south-west restaurants and cafes pivoted amid the coronavirus pandemic and introduced outdoor eating areas in a bid to welcome more patrons through the doors.
And now as density limits begin to ease and the colder months draw closer, venue owners are looking to keep their outdoor areas permanently.
The Whalers Hotel owner Alister Porter said the Liebig Street venue was keen to create a permanent outdoor presence after installing a marquee during the pandemic.
"We're looking at getting a permanent structure out the front," he said. "It's something we're working on at the minute and we've put some plans into council.
"Our outdoor area really works for us, it proved itself and we'll keep it going.
"It draws people in and over summer it was often the first area to be booked out. It's just like having an extra room.
"Over summer Liebig Street had a really good feel and more and more the bottom end is becoming the food end of the street and I think having outdoor spaces will add to that."
In October, The Standard reported 15 Warrnambool businesses had submitted applications to the council to extend or introduce new outdoor dining over the summer period. Warrnambool City Council also waived or refunded 38 existing outdoor dining permit fees.
An idea was even floated of turning the bottom end of Liebig Street into a summer-long outdoor dining area as a way to reinvigorate the hospitality sector in the wake of the pandemic.
The Cally Hotel manager Lucas Reid said the venue was planning to move out the front to add to its outdoor service. But he cautioned moving too hastily.
"As a rule, outside dining is only profitable for us if it's an extension of our inside dining," he said.
"It often doesn't allow a venue to become more profitable as most people don't want to sit outside for dinner especially with our climate.
"It's great when people want to sit outside as another option but every customer is different. If someone calls me up and asks for table in the bar to watch the footy and I tell them we've only got an outdoor area often they'll call up a friend instead and watch the game with takeaway."
Mr Reid said the pandemic had changed business owners' minds on how to run a successful eatery.
"It's more dynamic now," he said. "But we need indoor density limits increased.
"On the tail end of this year and early next year, we're going to see businesses go broke. We've had the government subsidies but now they're gone and the bills are still piling up.
"We've got to increase indoor numbers now. In my front bar I can only have 44 people; that's one-third of what we'd normally have. But the musicians are still full price as is the electricity and other costs.
"We're pushing hard for changes to be fully open soon."
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