Cafés, restaurants, food courts and other licensed venues

Factsheet – Cafés, restaurants, food courts and other licensed venues

Current restrictions in force are part of Step 3.2 of Canberra’s Recovery Plan are outlined in the page below.

Changes to restrictions are scheduled to come into effect at 9am Wednesday 2 December 2020. To find out more check the Changes to Restrictions page.

Capacity of venue

This information is for all hospitality venues, including cafés, restaurants, food courts and licensed venues such as clubs and bars.

Three venue capacity rules apply:

  • Option 1: 25 people (excluding staff) across venues with a total usable space of 100 square metres or less.
  • Option 2: 50 people (excluding staff) across venues with total usable space of between 101 and 200 square metres.
  • Option 3: Venues can have:
    • one person per four square metres of usable space in each indoor space (excluding staff),
    • one person per two square meters of usable space in each outdoor space (excluding staff),
    • maximum of 500 people for each space.

Notes on options above

  • Do not exceed the capacity limit that applies under standard liquor or fire occupancy loading and regulatory conditions of the venue.
  • Do not temporarily divide any usable indoor space or usable outdoor space for the purposes of calculating usable space.
  • Venues cannot use a combination of the three options. However, if a venue chooses to use option 3 and the outdoor area cannot be used due to inclement weather, venues can use either option 1 or 2 if this allows more patrons indoors.
  • Usable space is defined as the space people can freely move around in; it does not include:
    • restrooms, changerooms and similar areas
    • areas occupied by fixtures, fittings, and displays
    • stages and similar areas
    • staff-only areas and areas that are closed off or not being used.
  • An indoor space means an area, room or premises that is, or are, substantially enclosed by a roof and have floor to ceiling walls of solid construction.


  • Option 1: A café with seated dining and a usable space of 65 square metres across the venue can have 25 customers.
  • Option 2: A restaurant with indoors and outdoors dining across a usable space of 115 square metres can have 50 customers.
  • Option 3: A pub with 120 square metres of usable indoor space and 110 square metres of usable outdoors space can have 85 people across the whole venue. This includes 30 people indoors (120 divided by four square metres) and 55 people outdoors (110 divided by two square metres). If it is raining and the outdoor space can’t be used, the pub can use option 2, which allows 50 people indoors.


  • Please see the COVID Safe Event Protocol.
    • Event organisers for events for between 201 and 500 people are required to notify ACT Health and submit their COVID Safe plan (via the online form).
    • Events over 500 people require an exemption in accordance with the COVID Safe Event Protocol.
What businesses need to do
  • Have a COVID Safety Plan
  • Collect contact details
  • Put up signs
    • Display a sign at the entrance saying how many people can be in the whole venue.
    • Place signs at the entry to each usable space saying how many people can be in that space.
    • Display messaging for patrons to stay home if unwell.
    • Find the signage that best suits your venue/event at our Business resources page.
  • Serve in a COVID-safe way
    • Manage bookings so patrons do not stay for more than two hours wherever possible.
    • Wherever possible, space tables so patrons at different tables remain 1.5 metres apart.
    • Do not have self-serve buffets, communal snacks or communal condiments.
    • If possible, each indoor and outdoor space should have its own waitstaff.
    • If possible, have separate restroom facilities for each dining area.
    • Patrons in outdoors spaces can stand while eating and drinking; however, they are strongly encouraged to remain in their groups and should not mingle with people they do not know.
    • Patrons in indoor spaces must sit at a table or bar.
    • Patrons at the bar should sit away from where orders are taken.
    • Food courts must:
      • Observe the rule of one person per four square metres up to a maximum of 500 people per indoor space (excluding any staff on premises).
      • Ask each person for their first name and contact number. The Check In CBR app is free and easy to use. The business that provides the chairs and table for a food court has responsibility for ensuring that these contact details are requested.
      • Use floor markings to show where people can queue.
      • Set up the tables for a maximum of six people at any table.
      • Have a separate order and collection counter where possible.
      • Encourage patrons to remain seated while eating and leave as quickly as possible.
  • Keep activities COVID-safe
    • Live music is permitted, but performers should stand a minimum of two metres away from the audience and 1.5 metres apart from each other.
    • Patrons can use pool tables and other entertainment facilities (such as darts, pool and juke boxes) but should remain in their groups and return to their seats as soon as they have finished.
    • Dancing is not permitted because physical distancing is too hard to maintain.
    • Keno, TAB facilities and poker machines are allowed within licensed venues.
    • Space gaming machines so patrons can maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres. Erecting screening between gaming machines (such as Perspex screens) to replace spacing requirements is not permitted. If moving gaming machines from their existing gaming area, please contact Access Canberra first to ensure you comply with gaming legislation.
    • Events for between 201 and 500 people are required to notify ACT Health and submit their COVID Safe plan (via the online form).
    • Events for more than 500 people need an exemption under the COVID Safe Event Protocol.
  • Manage the crowd
    • Request patrons remain seated unless it is unreasonable and impracticable (for example, walking in and out of the venue, using restroom facilities or doing activities).
    • Manage the flow of people through the venue to promote physical distancing, particularly where people enter and leave the venue and different areas.
    • Encourage groups of people in queues and open areas who do not know each other to keep 1.5 metres apart (this is mandatory for licensed venues).
    • Prevent people from congregating or mingling in large groups within the same area of the venue for more than two hours.
  • Keep COVID safe
    • Follow your COVID Safety Plan.
    • Clean high-touch areas and objects frequently; for example, menus, railings, bars, chairs, restrooms and gaming machines - download the WorkSafe cleaning checklist for more information.
    • Ask staff and patrons to stay at home if they are not feeling well.
What the public need to do
  • Take personal responsibility for your own safety.
  • Keep 1.5 metres away from people or groups you don’t know, even when standing in outside spaces.
  • While indoors, remain seated while eating and drinking and whenever possible.
  • Maintain personal hygiene, including regular hand washing or sanitising.
  • Stay home if you’re unwell and get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Provide your name and contact number to businesses for contact tracing purposes.
  • Download the Check In CBR app so it’s easy to sign into participating Canberra venues when you visit.
Follow Public Health Directions
  • The Public Health Directions legislate how businesses can operate during the Public Health Emergency. Please keep up to date with the latest Public Health Directions because you may be fined if you don’t comply with them.
Other advice and tools
Recovery support

The ACT Government is continuing to support the ACT community as we begin to cautiously reopen our society and economy and learn to interact as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Visit the Supporting local businesses page for the full detail of the support available for businesses and eligibility requirements.

Businesses in this sector may be eligible to receive:

Find out what else the ACT Government is doing to support Canberrans on the Economic Survival Package page.

Find out more about the Commonwealth Government’s Economic Response to the Coronavirus on the Treasury website.

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

Last Updated: November 13 2020