With less than 100 sleeps until December 25, Wagga businesses normally preparing for a Christmas rush have this year found themselves confused and unsure how to plan around the ever-changing COVID rules.
Wagga Discount Party Hire owner Brian Cain said the rules were baffling and inconsistent, with only 20 people allowed for outdoor gatherings, 150 allowed for corporate functions, and tens of thousands allowed at Sydney football stadiums.
"They make the rules to suit themselves. Whatever suits the Sydney politicians and big businesses is what they move towards," Mr Cain said.
"They don't worry about us; the system doesn't work for the little person, the system only works for the big people."
Mr Cain said the restrictions had dealt a harsh blow to his business, with many events being cancelled on short notice due to the government's last-minute rule changes.
He said many of these rule changes were vague and not communicated very clearly to small business owners, leaving them uncertain about how they should plan for the future.
"Things are very tough in our industry at the moment," Mr Cain said.
"I just hope they find a vaccine that will fix the problem. Everybody just wants to go back to normal."
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Wagga resident Lexi Rossiter started her own party hire company Host Box earlier this year, but found events quickly dried up when the pandemic came.
She has also had to limit her Christmas party boxes to 20 people per order in a bid to keep up with the new rules on private indoor gatherings, saying it has been tough to keep up with the rapidly evolving regulations.
However, Ms Rossiter said she was determined to weather the coronavirus pandemic so that she can grow and expand her fledgling business when life returns to normal.
"A party hire company starting in the middle of a pandemic is probably not the best timing, but it was my idea and I wanted to do it," she said.
"It certainly hasn't been an overnight success, but it's one of those businesses that will build momentum when life gets back to normal - whatever normal is."
Australian Hotels Association Wagga president David Barnhill said pubs and hotels were in ongoing discussions with the government, and that they were optimistic that restrictions would ease in time for Christmas.
"We'd like to see it go to one person per two square metres, which would double the capacity of venues," Mr Barnhill said.
"We're very positive - we're hoping it's going to be relaxed in the next few weeks."