Cafes and restaurants first in line to open as restrictions ease

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a three-stage plan to ease restrictions after a meeting of the National Cabinet.

Each stage will last four weeks, with restaurants and cafes among the first businesses to see a return to normal.

However, the states and territories have final discretion over the exact timing of the plan.

Restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes and pubs in the Northern Territory will reopen their doors on May 15, with venues limiting patrons to a two-hour time limit and 1.5 metre social distancing.

Queensland has announced dining at restaurants, pubs, clubs, RSLs and cafes will resume on May 16 but will be limited to 10 people at any one time in cities and 20 in regional areas.

“The [outback] mayors have been onto me and I have to acknowledge that this is a different situation to the rest of Queensland because there are no quarantine cases,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“There are thousands of people working in those industries and people and businesses want certainty, so this gradual return to some form of normality in our post-COVID world would look a bit different but we will back each other and get through this together.”

In South Australia restaurants and cafes with outdoor dining reopened this week. Alcohol will not be served to patrons and a cap of 10 people will be set in the venues with the four square metre social distancing restriction to remain in place.

“Many [cafes and restaurants] have had outdoor tables and chairs which they’ve had to lock up, we’re allowing this in the first instance,” said South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.

“I think it will be a welcome increase to allow patrons to sit at outdoor dining. I can’t imagine people will be satisfied with this for too long, that’s why we’ve already started discussions with industries and in particular, pubs and clubs, for [stage] two so we can get them up and running.”

Tasmania will begin to ease restrictions on pubs, clubs, hotels, restaurants and RSLs from May 18, with venues capped at 10 patrons for table service dining along with social distancing measures.

“If we find we can’t move on something based on Public Health advice, then we won’t,” Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said.

In Western Australia, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to open dine-in services for up to 20 patrons under the four square metre social distancing rule from May 18.

“The health advice we got was if people are sitting having a meal and having a drink, they are less likely to move around than in other circumstances,” said WA Premier Mark McGowan.

“If you’ve got a limit of 20 and someone is sitting down, and they’re only going to have a drink and not have a meal, I think as a business decision it would be better if they’re eating a meal anyway.”

The Australian Capital Territory has not yet indicated when restaurants will resume operations, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr suggesting any changes would be made in line with Victoria and New South Wales.

“Were we to reopen bars and restaurants, but they remained closed in NSW, then we would get quite an influx of people into the territory and that would lead to an increased risk,” Barr said.

Victoria and New South Wales are yet to announce their timetable for when venues can reopen.

“I know, I know that everyone would love to be back at the pub, or at a cafe, or at a restaurant … I get it, I understand it,” said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

“We’ve come too far to let everything back because we’re frustrated.”