Amy Dolman, Geoff Small and Jake Simpson are looking forward to welcoming people back to KC's Bar & Grill in Airlie Beach.
Amy Dolman, Geoff Small and Jake Simpson are looking forward to welcoming people back to KC's Bar & Grill in Airlie Beach.

COME IN: Businesses ramp up operations as restrictions ease

THE vibrant nightlife of Airlie Beach is making a slow return to normality as businesses prepare to ramp up operations this weekend in response to easing coronavirus restrictions.

From Saturday, people will be able to have gatherings of up to 10 people including outdoors in parks and National Parks, and recreational travel is now allowed up to 150km from home.

Ten people at once will also be allowed to dine in restaurants, cafes, pubs, RSLs, clubs and hotels.

One business that is grabbing the bull by the horns is long-established Airlie Beach restaurant KC's Bar & Grill.

Owner Geoff Small said with restrictions easing from Saturday, he was very excited to invite customers back to the venue 10 people at a time.

"We have just got to roll with the times," Mr Small said, adding takeaway business had been good.

"This is what they have put forward - we need to be creative and do the business we can do.

"We are adapting to what's been put in front of us. We are not making money, we are just trying to still be alive in difficult times."

Mr Small said KC's, established in 1981, was known for great food and great music and was staggering musicians to give as many as they could a run and support them.

KC's is offering diners a five-course "Food Journey" with a drink on arrival and live music. Parties of 10 people can book a table for a specific seating - check the Facebook page for times - so there is only 10 people in the restaurant at a time.

Sorrento Restaurant and Bar is also making the most of the new restrictions by staggering dine-in options.

Owner Iyas Shaheen said the restaurant would run three lunch and two dinner sessions and was already booked out for Saturday night.

"We thought it's something that's good for the community," he said.

"People want to go out and start experience life again. It's another outlet for people, it's good for everybody's mental health and to have a bit of normality in their life."

Another business looking forward to the easing of restrictions is Absolute Airlie, which is restarting its nature-based guided walks in the rainforest from Saturday.

"We are not expecting big things but we can do something," co-owner Alice Walsgott, who owns the business with husband Gus, said.

"Normally, we rely on the international market but we are changing the products and have locals discounts that we are putting out.

"People can do a private tour for up to nine people, plus the guide, and we are doing 50 per cent off.

"Social distancing is something we have always done and we have always only had small group tours, so we are the perfect product at the moment."

Mrs Walsgott said all the guides were local, so people would be supporting local jobs.

"We are trying to keep them employed - we are not even doing it to make money at the moment - but we are doing something, rather than nothing."

Whitsunday Coast Chamber of Commerce's president Allan Milostic welcomed the announcement and called it "positive but limited".

"Any opening up, within reason, would be welcomed by the chamber," he said.

"Anything which can bring more people out and through Airlie Beach is a good thing, especially with a lot of the focus on recreational activities which Airlie is known for."

Mr Milostic said the increase to 10 people in a restaurant at a time would not make restaurants who had closed and not transitioned to offering takeaway "suddenly viable".

But he said for those that had their employees on JobKeeper payments, or had been successful in the transition, it could be the beginning of something resembling normality.

"I think you'd find without those JobKeeper payments a lot of the businesses wouldn't be viable. They're just going through the motions," he said.

"The guillotine moment is when we come off these payments and we start looking six months from now."

Other businesses that have reopened recently include Whitsunday Jetski Tours, Airlie Boat Hire and Whitsunday Segway Tours.