By Vanessa Cavasinni, Andy Young and Brydie Allen

With government advice, public health orders and shutdown restrictions changing on a sometimes daily basis, it can be difficult to keep up with the circumstances under which a pub can trade. Australian Hotelier and TheShout have rounded up what is happening in each state for pubs, as governments begin the process of easing restrictions.

Since the Federal Government released its roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia last month, states have begun to implement the various aspects of the plan at various stages, dependent on their own individual case numbers of COVID-19. Included in theses plans are the re-opening of pubs and other hospitality venues.

Besides present takeaway and delivery F&B offerings, here’s how and when pubs can re-open their on-premise offerings in each state and territory, as they are currently stand. Social distancing measures of 1.5m and one person per 4sqm are still in effect across the country, except in Western Australia, which has gone with one person per 2sqm.

New South Wales: The NSW Premier announced that venues across the state will be able to open for up to 50 people from today, with 50 more allowed in separate dining areas. There will be strict guidelines in place regarding the number of people allowed in a venue and what they can do in there and bookings of more than 10 people will not be allowed. The Premier said, “You have to be seated at a table, even if it’s a pub, you have to be seated at the table; you have to be served at the table; there is no mingling, no standing around.”

Gaming is allowed from today but venues must ensure there is 1.5 metres between active gaming machines. Customers using gaming machines are included in the maximum capacity limit of each seated table service area, and customers from different seated table service areas should not co-mingle.

AHA NSW CEO John Whelan said this means 44,500 hotel staff members across NSW would be back at work in hotels from today – about 24,500 in metropolitan hotels and 20,000 in regional areas.

“This is great news for hoteliers, our staff and our loyal patrons’ right across NSW,” he said. “This is a massive step forward for hotels and the NSW economy. Hotels have struggled to survive – today marks the start of our come back as a great place for our communities to meet, relax and socialise.

“Hoteliers have rightly put the health and safety of staff, patrons and the community first as we battle together to contain the spread of COVID-19, but the virus has obviously devastated hotels and our workforce.

“We look forward to the day when we can safely fully re-open, re-employ our staff and pour a cold draught beer for our loyal patrons – hopefully that day is not far off as we work together to beat COVID-19.”

Victoria: Victoria’s plan for re-opening means 20 patrons per enclosed space, will be able to enjoy a meal inside a pub, bar, restaurant or café. from today, increasing to 50 patrons from 22 June and 100 patrons from mid-July. Restrictions on other spaces within pubs and clubs, such as public bars and gaming areas will remain in place throughout June. Venues are also required to record the details of all patrons for contact tracing purposes should the need arise.

In making the announcement about venue openings, Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews called on both operators and the public to do the right thing.

“[Venues] know it’s in their interest. They won’t be open, they’ll be closed, if they don’t follow these rules.”

Andrews added: “This will only work if those who are going out to a cafe, or those who are going out for a meal at a restaurant, or going to the bistro in a pub, actually follow those rules.”

If the rules are not followed, Andrews warned: “If we see spikes, if we see people not doing the right thing and therefore an increase in the number of cases, then these settings could change. That is not what we want to do.”

Queensland: Queensland has brought forward its timetable for easing restrictions with restaurants, cafes and pubs operating under a COVID safe checklist permitted to increase the total number of patrons from 10 to 20, from today.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said: “From Friday this week, with a COVID-safe industry plan, venues with more space will be able to go further and allow up to 20 people in each separate area, seated for meals or drinks. For example, some surf clubs, pubs and RSLs may have four or five defined separate indoor and outdoor areas – they can have 20 people in each of these areas if the areas are big enough.

“However, every venue must continue to adhere to strict social distancing rules including limiting each patron to an area of four square metres and adhere to hygiene protocols.

“I know many Queenslanders will look forward to having a drink out. It will be a different experience – you will need to be seated and be served by a waiter to order your drinks. Crowds standing at the bar doesn’t support social distancing.

“While some venues will need time to prepare, the confirmation of these changes will give many the confidence to re-open for dining in or to increase the number of patrons – creating more jobs.

“I ask that people be patient as businesses get ready for this new stage and understand that staff are doing their best to help you enjoy more activities and keep safe.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk added: “The only reason we are able to move forward with our planned Stage Two ahead of the original June 12 date is because Queenslanders have listened to the advice, acted on that advice and done an outstanding job of helping to smash the Covid-19 curve.”

South Australia: Currently, any business which in their normal course of operation sells food and beverages can open. Seated dining including alcohol service at licensed establishments is allowed for up to 10 people indoors and 10 people outdoors.

From today pubs are allowed to serve alcohol without a meal but they must be seated. Patrons can approach a bar or service area to order but they cannot sit at the bar or service area to eat or drink. At any one time, a maximum of 20 patrons per dining area are allowed, with a total capped capacity of 80, but only if density does not exceed one person per four sqm. People collecting takeaway are not included in these limits, but social distancing of 1.5 metres between themselves must be adhered to.

Food and drinks (including alcoholic drinks) can be consumed by patrons while seated at tables that are physically separate from each other. This could be in a restaurant, café, pub or cellar door.
However, in such venues, none of the following may be used:

  • communal food or drink services (buffets, salad bars, drink dispensers)
  • gaming areas or gambling facilities
  • shared equipment (pool tables, darts, game consoles)
  • reusable equipment (shisha, hookah, smoking or vaping).

Businesses that were previously directed to close, and that are allowed to reopen from 1 June, must have completed a COVID-Safe Plan before reopening. Businesses that were allowed to reopen during Step One of South Australia’s Roadmap to Recovery, must have completed a Plan to remain open from 1 June.

In both cases, businesses that have not completed a Plan, do not have the Plan available at the business premises, or do not comply with current Directions, can be fined up to $5000.

Western Australia: Currently seated dining for 20 people within pubs is allowed, but venue staff will have to complete a COVID-19 hygiene course before the resumption of service.

However, last week WA Premier Mark McGowan announced a substantial relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions from Saturday 6 June.

The 4sqm will be replaced with a 2sqm rule, allowing venues to double the number of people they can allow in, up to a maximum of 100, up from the current limit of 20. Bigger venues with separate zones can split these and will be able to serve a maximum of 300 people.

Licensed venues will be permitted to serve alcohol without meals, but patrons must remain seated at all times.

AHA(WA) CEO Bradley Woods welcomed the changes, saying: “This is a critical milestone for WA’s hospitality industry in the battle against COVID-19 and will be celebrated by hospitality operators and staff across the state.

“The ability for venues to now have up to 100 patrons per separate area or room with a maximum capacity of 300 and the removal of the one in 4sqm of floor space restriction, is a significant shift in the ability of venues to re-open and operate.”

He added: “WA’s hospitality industry has paid a heavy financial price to keep Western Australians safe and as they re-open they do so in a way that prioritises patron safety, with new hygiene training, social distancing requirements and contact tracing protocols in place.

“What is most important now is that venues are well supported by the local community – the road to recovery ahead is going to be a long one and it is now more crucial than ever that Western Australians get out and support their local venues.”

Australian Capital Territory: Currently, pubs offering dining can seat up to 10 patrons, including children, across their whole venue. Alcohol can only be consumed with a meal.

Late last month the state government announced that from May 30, hospitality venues are allowed 20 seated patrons per enclosed or outdoor space. This means that larger venues are now able to permit more people, given they are across multiple spaces and meet social distancing guidelines. These numbers do not include staff or patrons waiting for takeaway, but social distancing should apply in these cases.

From today, Canberrans will also be allowed to visit NSW for a holiday.

Northern Territory: On-premise bar and dining services (alcohol to be consumed with food) has resumed, with a two-hour time limit for each patron. Gaming offerings are not to be operational.

From Friday, 5 June, all bar, pubs and clubs will be allowed to operate without food being compulsory and the two-hour patron limit will be removed.

Additionally all licensed gaming activities including TAB can resume. The 1.5m social distancing requirement remains in place and the Government is urging Territorians to take personal responsibility to contain the virus, saying, “it is only if the community work together that we will keep the NT safe”.

Tasmania: Currently in Stage 1 of its roadmap, Tasmania’s Restaurants and cafes in all settings (including restaurants in pubs, clubs, hotels and RSLs) can open and seat patrons of up to 10 people per dining areas, with a total of two dining areas allowed per venue. Seated table service only, one diner per four sqm, and each dining area must have its own wait staff. Alcohol to only be consumed with food.

Stage 2, which will allow for 20 people is scheduled for 15 June, with Stage 3 allowing for between 50 to 100 people and the potential reopening of clubs, bars, nightclubs and casino from 13 July.

Australian Hotelier will continue to report on any further changes made around pub trading restrictions as they are made available.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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