Cafes, Restaurants and Licensed Venues

What can I do?

  • From 12 noon on Friday 19 June 2020, cafes, restaurants and licensed venues can open with a maximum of 100 patrons per indoor or outdoor space or one person per 4 square metres, whichever is lesser.
  • Staff are excluded from both the patron limit and the 4 square metre rule.
  • Alcohol can be served without a meal, but patrons must be seated and in groups of no more than 10 people.
  • Groups dining in can be a maximum of 20 people.
  • Patrons can order at the bar or counter but must be seated to consume their drinks or meals.
  • Live music can recommence, but performers should maintain a minimum distance from patrons of at least 1.5 metres.
  • Tables must be spaced in a way that ensures that patrons at different table remain 1.5 metres apart.  This could mean that tables are more than 1.5 metres apart.
  • Cellar doors can open for tastings without food for groups of no more than 10 people who are seated.
  • Keno and TAB facilities are permitted within licensed venues (poker machines must remain closed).

What can’t I do?

  • Have more than 100 patrons per indoor or outdoor space.
  • Patrons should not stand around while drinking. They must remain seated either at the bar (away from the area where orders are taken) or at a table.
  • Self-serve buffet style food service, communal snack bars or communal condiments are not permitted.
  • Poker machines must remain closed.

What are my responsibilities?

  • Venues must have a COVID Safety Plan.
  • Venues are required to ask all patrons for their first name and phone number and record it along with the date and time they attended the venue. Details can be safely destroyed after 28 days.
  • Each indoor or outdoor space should have its own waitstaff if possible.
  • If possible, ensure there are separate restroom facilities for each dining area.
  • Manage bookings so patrons are not staying longer than two hours.
  • Increase cleaning of high touch areas and restroom facilities.

What are the community responsibilities?

  • Maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres.
  • Limit the time at a venue to less than two hours, and stay in one part of the venue as much as possible.
  • Make bookings where possible and let businesses know if you won’t be able to make it.
  • Maintain personal hygiene, including regular hand washing.
  • Stay home if unwell.
  • Get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

What does the public need to know?

  • Restrictions are easing but your responsibility hasn’t.
  • Continue to practise good hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distancing, stay home if you are unwell and get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You should also download the COVIDSafe app and ensure you provide your first name and contact number to any businesses that are required to ask for contact tracing purposes.
  • Be sensible when you have people over at your residence and have your own control measures in place. Know who is there and at what times, download the COVIDSafe app, join Flu Tracker and participate in important YourSay Community Panel engagements and health surveys that will help the ACT respond the best that it can.

Can bars that don’t usually serve meals reopen?

Now that alcohol can be served without food to groups of up to 10 patrons, bars that don’t serve meals can reopen. Bars must observe the same cap on patronage as restaurants, cafés and clubs, along with the one person per 4 square metre rule. Patrons must remain seated except for when ordering or using the bathroom facilities.  Patrons should not stand while drinking.

Do cafes and restaurants have to reopen?

Restaurants, cafes and other hospitality venues are encouraged to only reopen if the model works for them.

Does this mean large venues can cater for more than 100 patrons if they have more than one indoor or outdoor space?

Yes. It means a venue that has several restaurants or indoor dining areas may have up to 20 patrons in each of those areas.

These venues must ensure they carefully manage each individual space so that any risk of spread of COVID-19 is minimised. This means:

  • Manage how patrons enter and exit each dining area which ensures reduced contact wherever possible. Can each dining area be set up to have its own entrance and separate exit?
  • Set each table at least 1.5 metres apart.
  • Ensure each separate indoor or outdoor space has its own wait staff.  Staff members should avoid entering other areas wherever possible.
  • The two outdoor areas will need to be very clearly separated and have their own entry and exit points – an exaggerated space between each area would be helpful.
  • The spaces should be set up in a way that ensures that patrons cannot move between each of the spaces and co-mingle.
  • Offer table service only –patrons should not order at the bar.
  • If possible, ensure there is one bathroom per dining area so bathrooms are not shared between a large number of patrons.
  • Keep first name and contact number of all seated patrons for contact tracing purposes.

The business must also maintain physical distancing including one person per 4 square metres, hand hygiene and frequent environmental cleaning and disinfection.  This will result in fewer than 20 people being seated in smaller indoor and outdoor spaces.

What is the definition of an indoor space?

An indoor space means an area, room or premises that is, or are, substantially enclosed by a roof and walls (of solid construction and stretching from floor to ceiling), regardless of whether the roof or walls or any part of them are:

  1. Permanent or temporary; or
  2. Open or closed

This would include a marquee with a ceiling and three or more walls.

A business may have several indoor spaces which can then permit up to 100 seated customers per space, or one person per four square metres whichever is lesser.  The definition of ‘indoor space’ must be observed, as would the requirement for one person per four square metres.

An area that is a combined indoor/outdoor space (that is, where there is no physical separation between the two spaces) is to be regarded as one space.

For large venues (particularly clubs and pubs), there needs to be careful consideration given to the available spaces to ensure that groups of patrons are not moving between groups within the larger venue.  It is important to ensure that co-mingling is minimised.

What is the definition of an outdoor space?

A dining area is considered to be outdoors if it is not an indoor space.

Does the one person per 4 square metre rule apply to both staff and patrons?

Not in hospitality venues, where the rule only applies to seated patrons per indoor and/or outdoor space.

Refer to the fact sheet for indoor and outdoor spaces and the 4 square metre rule fact sheet for hospitality venues advice on how to calculate your maximum allowable limits.

Does the 100 person per indoor or outdoor space limit include children?

Yes. The limit includes children, toddlers and infants in the total number of seated patrons allowed in a given space.

Can I have live music at my pub to entertain my patrons?


Can we dance to music performances, jukebox or DJ music?

No. Whether as a main performance or ancillary to other activity such as eating or drinking at a hospitality venue, patrons must remain seated.

What happens once the café or restaurant has reached capacity?

Once you have reached your maximum allowable capacity for your premises you must decline entry to further people.

To assist in managing customer flow, you may like to consider an appointment/booking model for diners or have several sitting times. You should also manage dining so patrons are not staying more than two hours at your venue, as recommended in the public health emergency directions.

Display signs at entry points that clearly state the number of patrons that are allowed to be seated at any one time.

What should I do if staff or customers are unwell?

Staff who are unwell should not attend work.  If a customer appears to be unwell, you can decline them entry to your premises. Place signs at entry points to instruct customers not to enter the premises if they are unwell. The sign should also state that businesses have the right to refuse service or decline entry.

Do the limits for cafes and restaurants apply to both takeaway customers and people dining in?

The 100 person limit applies to seated patrons dining or drinking at restaurants, cafes and other hospitality venues. Businesses can still provide takeaway food and drink to others who are not dining in while ensuring physical distancing measures are implemented and monitored by staff (including contractors), including:

  • keeping 1.5 metres between people;
  • one person per 4 square metres – including those people ordering, waiting or collecting takeaway; and
  • taking all reasonable steps to prevent gatherings outside of your venue and encouraging patrons to consume takeaway away from the business/shop.

In any given space, providing it is big enough under the one person per 4 square metre rule, a hospitality business could have 100 seated patrons and further patrons waiting for takeaway.

Hospitality businesses should think through movement flow and accessibility and consider floor markings to support queuing.

Take away sales of alcohol are still permitted, subject to the venue’s licensing provisions. Alcohol can be served to patrons who are not eating in groups of up to ten patrons.

Can I order from the bar? / Can I serve from the bar?

You can, but once served patrons should return to their seats. You should also take all steps possible to avoid people gathering in any communal area, including the bar.

How could I improve the flow of customers and minimise risks?

Hand sanitiser should be provided at points of entry and be clearly labelled for public use.  Businesses should also ensure that bathroom facilities have continuous and adequate supply of hand washing supplies.

If practicable, set up separate exit and entry points and separate order and collection points to minimise contact. Encourage online and phone bookings and limit the number of walk-in diners.

Remove waiting area seating or space seating at least 1.5 metres apart.

Consider floor markings, which provide clear guidance for patrons to enter, exit and queue.

You may also like to consider a ‘concierge’ model, where a member of your team greets customers, advises them of the arrangements in place at the venue to support their safety, as well as your staff’s, and encourage them to use hand sanitiser before they enter.

Do I need to maintain a bookings register with contact details?

The Public Health Directions require you to request and keep a record, of first name, contact phone number, and date and time of visit. Records should be kept for 28 days after which the record can be securely destroyed. Patrons can refuse to give you their contact details and you cannot refuse entry on this basis.

How long can I stay at a cafe or restaurant?

Bookings should be managed so patrons are not staying at the venue for more than two hours.

If I go to pub or club for a meal, can I use the gaming facilities?

Keno and TAB facilities are allowed from 12 noon on Friday 19 June. Poker machines must remain closed.

Is the use of pool tables, jukebox/music machines, fuse ball tables allowed?

These can be operated as long as the following is considered:

  • Such equipment is regularly cleaned, including making wipes or other cleaning materials available for patrons to wipe down cues/handles etc between uses
  • That distancing is maintained between players (1.5 metres) and those who may be watching
  • That the drinking of alcohol is discouraged while standing and using such equipment. Patrons should be seated when eating or drinking.

Can food courts now open, if restaurants and cafes can?

Food courts remain closed for seated patrons.  However, food businesses within a food court can operate but only on a takeaway or meal delivery basis.

What about the sharing of food/communal plates/sharing platters or buffets?

The sharing of food should be discouraged. It is recommended that food is not provided in a ‘shared’ way or presented for communal consumption.

Self-service buffets, communal condiments and communal snack bars are not allowed.

Can I still provide a self-service utensil station for customers?

No, utensils should be provided by staff to each customer.

Can I use refillable water bottles on tables?

Remove any refillable water bottles (such as glass carafes) which have narrow mouths and can’t be fully sanitised between each use.

My staff are worried about the safety of collecting people’s dirty plates and glasses, what can I tell them?

Good hand hygiene is the best way to avoid infection. All staff should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling any dishes, glasses and cutlery that have been used by customers. Make sure all staff members are reminded of this at the start of each shift and place additional signage with correct procedures in key areas, including above the hand wash facility.

Limit handwashing of items where possible and use commercial dishwashers.

You can download hygiene posters here

How do I prepare staff?

Brief staff on safe food handling practices and heighten health and hygiene policies and procedures, such as the importance of hand hygiene and regular sanitisation of food preparation surfaces, equipment and customer and dining areas before each shift. You should strongly remind staff that they should not come to work if they are unwell.

Also empower your staff to remind customers of any safety or changed arrangements at your premise and to be mindful of their own physical distancing with patrons and other staff.

Ensure staff understand how they can raise any concerns around their health safety, as well as patrons, with management and regularly check-in to see if your staff have any questions, concerns or ideas to support their, or venue safety.

What do I need to do if I am reopening my business for the first time or recommencing a dining service?

You will need to ensure that you develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan which you must adhere to, and which you must produce when requested by an authorised person.

Would it be safer for staff to wear gloves when serving customers?

Where gloves are used, they must be changed regularly, and you should wash hands thoroughly between glove changes. Gloves can carry the virus if they come into contact with it.

Should staff wear masks when serving customers?

There is little evidence that use of surgical masks by healthy people mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission in public. If staff are well, they do not need to wear a surgical mask. If a staff member is unwell, they should be sent home immediately.

I have run out of hand-towel/ hand hygiene products and my supplier has not got any, what should I do?

You must have sufficient hand washing and drying facilities to operate your business safely. If you cannot maintain essential stocks your business would be required to cease operating.

How often should we be sanitising surfaces?

Benches and other surfaces, (handles, fridge and cool room handles etc), dining areas and condiments such as sauce bottles, salt and pepper shakers, should be sanitised after each dining service and should not be left on the table. EFT machines and service counters should also be sanitised frequently. Make sure you have sufficient stocks of sanitising and hand washing products and hand towels to meet these increased needs.

Should I fill a customer’s own container for takeaways (such as reusable cups, or sealed containers)?

It is recommended that food businesses take a precautionary approach and consider carefully whether to use customer supplied reusable containers to minimise the potential risk to your staff.

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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: June 22 2020