Premier Peter Gutwein has described a Hobart restaurant's decision to close its doors to protect staff and patrons from COVID as "a little extreme", but more are believed to be considering similar action.
Popular Elizabeth Street eatery Bar Wa Izakaya announced it was temporarily shutting on Sunday "at a massive cost" to its business, and placed several posters on its windows criticising the Premier.
"We believe a financial cost is better than any health cost to our staff, family and you," the business' social media post read.
"This border opening will slowly suffocate us, the dumbing down of announcements doesn't change that."
Karen Burbury - who owns Launceston restaurants Cataract on Paterson and Rupert & Hound - responded that she was considering temporarily closing to protect the "health and safety" of employees. Her restaurants faced difficulties finding staff during the COVID period.
Several other eateries along Elizabeth Street in Hobart also appeared to be closed over the New Year's period. The Taste of Tasmania festival offered free entry for its final day due to low attendance figures.
Mr Gutwein was critical of Bar Wa for taking the measure to close, believing the business was enjoying strong trade after the border reopening.
He did not believe that shutting the doors was necessary for Tasmanian businesses, provided they had a COVID-safe plan.
"What does concern me is that if businesses decide to take Public Health advice into their own hands, close their business for no good reason," Mr Gutwein said.
"My understanding is that that business has been very busy over the period. The steps that were taken yesterday to me seemed a little extreme."
He said changes to close contact definitions would make it less likely for businesses to face staffing issues.
"Unless a staff member is identified as a close contact of a positive case, there's no need for them to take a RAT test, there's no need for them to self-isolate," Mr Gutwein said.
He encouraged casual workers who lose hours due to COVID measures to apply for a Pandemic Isolation Assistance grant of up to $750 for a week from Services Australia.
Labor, Greens critical of uncertainty for businesses
Labor workplace relations spokesperson Sarah Lovell said COVID testing needed to be improved to give businesses confidence that they could continue to operate as Omicron spreads in the community.
"Understandably, businesses were keen to have borders open," she said.
"But with such lack of support from the government, with inadequate testing facilities available, the risk is just too great, and the response that businesses were having to put into place was costing them money.
"It is a better business decision for some of those businesses now to close their doors altogether than to risk their staff being exposed, customers being exposed to COVID in their venue."
Greens health spokesperson Rosalie Woodruff said Bar Wa had taken reasonable, but unfortunate, steps to protect its staff and patrons.
But the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the government - and the community - to "stay the course" and "learn to live with COVID".
TCCI chief executive officer Michael Bailey said the small number of COVID hospitalisations in Tasmania - two at the moment - meant the risk was low.
"I know it is very confronting for some in our community and if there are any business owners or operators out there that would like assistance or advice the TCCI is here to help," he said.
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