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COVID-19 and the current state of play for restaurants, cafes and other hospitality businesses

The Victorian Government has announced that restaurants, cafes and other hospitality businesses can resume limited dine-in services from 11.59pm on 31 May 2020. What are the rules around this new state of play?
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Good news for our hospitality friends! The Victorian Government has announced that restaurants, cafes and other hospitality businesses can resume limited dine-in services from 11.59pm on 31 May 2020. Oh, how we’ve missed our Melbourne food and coffee. Good news for all!

To make things very clear in this unprecedented environment, the government has published the Hospitality Industry Guidelines for Coronavirus (COVID-19), detailing the rules and requirements for venues in Victoria. 

To help give you a strong high-level understanding of the current state of play, we’ve prepared a brief summary of the guidelines for you below. We would, however, urge you to take a look at the guidelines yourself as they likely answer a lot of questions you may still have after reading this article. 

What are the rules for restaurants, cafes and bars re-opening in Victoria?

From 11:59pm on 31 May 2020, Victorian venues are able to resume dine-in services subject to the following:

  • There will be a cap of 20 seated patrons per enclosed space (which the Victorian Government defines as an area, room or premises that is substantially enclosed by a roof and walls, regardless of whether the roof or walls are permanent or temporary, or open or closed
  • All venues must abide by physical distancing requirements. Venues will not be able to hold more than 1 patron per 4 square metres (you do not have to include staff in this calculation). You can figure this out by dividing the total area of the space (in square metres) by 4. For example, if an indoor space is 8.5 metres long and 4.5 metres wide, its total area is 38.25 square metres. Dividing this number by 4 gives you a figure of 9.56. So, a venue of that is 38.25 metres square can have 9 guests (yes, you have to round down unfortunately)
  • Tables will need to be spaced 1.5 metres apart
  • The maximum number of people that can be seated together is 6. Larger groups are able to make bookings however multiple tables 1.5 metres apart will need to be used
  • Venues must take down the contact details (first name and phone number ) of every customer, in case any contact tracing needs to occur.

The above guidelines apply to restaurants and cafes that offer table service to serve food. This includes standalone cafes and restaurants, restaurants and bistros within a pub, bar, registered and licensed clubs, RSL and community clubs or hotels, and fast food outlets, cafeterias and canteens.

Restrictions on other spaces in these venues – including public bars and gaming areas – will remain in place throughout June, as will restrictions on food courts. Closed areas within these venues cannot be calculated as part of the four square metre rule.

Venues with multiple divided spaces can have up to 20 patrons in each space as long as they comply with the above density requirements and there are controls in place for shared spaces, e.g. foyers and bathrooms.

Each dining area must be separated by permanent structures or be a discrete area of the premises that is sufficiently separated from any other area of the premises. Walls separating areas should either reach from the floor to ceiling, or be at least 2.1 metres high for the space to be considered sufficiently separate. Temporary structures should not be installed to create separate areas.

What are the rules for outdoor areas?

The rules in relation to outdoor spaces are the same as for enclosed spaces on the basis that an outside area is effectively treated as an individual dining space.

Are trading hours restricted?

There are not any restrictions on trading hours. It is up to the business to decide when they choose to operate (obviously subject to the usual rules and regulations as well as their lease).

Can hospitality venues serve alcohol?

Alcohol-only service is not allowed. Patrons who wish to consume alcohol must do so with a meal.

Do venues need COVID-19 signage?

Venues must display a sign at each public entry that includes information on the maximum number of people that can be present in the space as well as display posters on good hygiene and handwashing practices in prominent places. Venues should also establish hygiene stations (with hand sanitiser) at entrances and throughout the venue to encourage hand hygiene of staff and patrons.

What are the cleaning requirements?

Venues must, at a minimum, undertake initial pre-opening deep cleaning and implement an environmental cleaning schedule to ensure frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces and bathrooms. Further advice about cleaning can be found on the Business Victoria website.

When will the COVID-19 venue restrictions ease further?

More good news! From 11.59pm on 21 June 2020, the number of seated patrons allowed in a venue will increase to 50. The Victorian Government has planned to further increase the number to 100 patrons per enclosed space from the second half of July.

We note that changes to the above dates are subject to advice from the Chief Health Officer, so stay tuned and keep up to date on the Business Victoria Guidelines web page.

Feel free to get in touch with our BlueRock Law team if you have any questions about running a hospitality business in the current climate.

See you at the pub for a parma!

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