Glasses are being polished, the beer lines cleaned and primed and the last licks of paint applied at the Lake George Hotel in Bungendore in readiness for when businesses in the NSW regional areas around the ACT prepare to re-open on Monday.
For former Wallabies prop and publican Richard Harry, it's an exciting development and one which has he and his 32 fulltime and casual staff bustling with preparatory tasks. Outside in the streets of Bungendore, there's a thirst for quasi-normality poised to be slaked.
From Monday, dubbed "Freedom Day" in NSW, those people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to enjoy a beer at the pub, shop (but not browse), have their hair cut and nails done, and gyms and sporting facilities will re-open.
All will occur with strict caveats applied including density limits, dancing and singing restrictions (no singing indoors except for performers and indoor drinkers must be seated), and mask wearing will still be mandatory for staff and customers indoors.
Over the border in Canberra, freedom has to wait just a little longer until Friday, October 15. Border checks will remain in place to ensure that the "bubble", which has allowed travel for NSW residents living in nearby postcodes to move in and out of the ACT for specific purposes, doesn't leak or burst.
From Monday, those who are fully vaccinated and living in regional NSW will be permitted to travel into other regional NSW areas, although those living in the Greater Sydney area, including the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and the Illawarra, are not yet included.
Mr Harry said that Bungendore, just 35 minutes from Canberra on the direct route to the NSW South Coast, had been economically hard hit by the lockdown.
"I'd say 99.9 per cent of people are really excited for our dear little economy to open back up and everyone's going to do their part and they know what's expected of them," he said.
"We've been really clear and concise on the double vax requirement [for entry] and people get it."
He knows, too, that running the only pub in town carries a hefty responsibility.
"We'll have zero tolerance on it [the double vaccination entry rule]," he said.
"There will be no skirting the rules or flouting the rules; everyone has really pulled hard to get us to this point; we didn't make the rules, we'll just make sure we police them well.
"It will be like asking someone for their ID."
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At Bean Central in the heart of Queanbeyan, owner and chef Matt Morrissey was planning to serve a freedom day breakfast on Monday although admitted to "excitement mixed with a little anxiety" as to how the strict rules will play out as the public come through his cafe door.
"We will still be allowing people who can't show their vaccination status to get takeaways but they will be asked to wait outside," he said.
"We're not a licensed premises so we hopefully won't face some of the issues that may occur if you have to deal with intoxicated people.
"If there are questions from patrons or issues, those will be taken on by me or the more senior members of my staff."
He said an advantage with his location, which many Queanbeyan locals will remember as the former Central Cafe, was that there was space for up to 60 people indoors even under the limits of one person per four square metres.
"It will be great to welcome back those, I suppose you'd call them more senior members of our local community who before the lockdown would come in here regularly during the week for teas and coffees and catch-ups," he said.
"They've been cooped up inside so I know it's been tough for them socially."
Kylie Johnson, who runs the Kings Junction cafe and gift shop in Bungendore, said she had prepared a "cheat sheet" for her staff so they best know how to respond to questions about the restrictions.
"We have quite a few junior staff working here so it just helps them more comfortably manage those potential situations," she said.
She said the year had been a very tough one for her business with the effects of bushfires, the closing of the Kings Highway, the pandemic lockdown and even a robbery.
"We've had it all this year," she said.
"But the local community support has been wonderful and I'm confident things will get busy again."
At the Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan, publican Anthony McDonald said he will be so happy to see some of his regulars back, he may even shout them a beer.
"We can't wait; if nothing changes I'm planning to open up at 10am [Monday]," he said.
"We've given the old place a tart-up and it is really looking good.
"There's a huge pent-up demand for our function rooms, too because there's been so many big occasions and celebrations missed."
He said that he would be putting someone on the door who would be checking patrons' vaccination status.
"We'll have one way in and one way out so it should be pretty easy to manage," he said.
He said that given that regional NSW was opening and the ACT was not, the lure of a draught beer on tap and a schnitty might prove an awfully tempting dash for those just over the border.
"It will be tough to manage because, after all, Queanbeyan's not very far [from Canberra]," he said.
Queanbeyan-Palerang chief executive officer Peter Tegart said that the council's scheduled crisis management team met late on Friday afternoon to receive all the updated public health orders and regulations from the NSW government.
He said that council had not yet decided as to what extent its own premises would open on Monday "principally because there is insufficient time to get the relevant staff on board or relevant checks and balances put in place for things like indoor pools, in particular".
"We will open up [council-run premises] during the week, perhaps not directly on Monday, but that depends on the outcome of the meeting this afternoon," he said.
He said the council had been in regular contact with the ACT government and cross border commissioners to examine the nuances between the ACT and NSW regulations but "it still remains the case that ACT movement into NSW is limited".
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