Victoria's cafes, restaurants and pubs to reopen with 20-customer limit from 1 June

Victoria's cafes, restaurants and pubs to reopen with 20-customer limit from 1 June

Six days ago when Australians in many states and territories were frothing to soon go back to the pub, have dinner out of home or celebrate being allowed to sit down with a morning coffee, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) had a more sobering message.

He explained the feedback from hospitality venues had been overwhelming - 10 patrons at a time, which is the benchmark for Step 1 of reopening guidelines, just doesn't work.  

"If we wait those three weeks when we move to go beyond just takeaway for cafés and restaurants, we might not have to stick with a number of 10. We might be able to go higher than that," Premier Andrews said at the time.

Today, even as the state tries to keep two COVID-19 clusters under control with 89 new cases recorded over the past seven days, the Premier has delivered on his word.

"After smashing through our goal of 50,000 tests in the last week, the results of this data has given us the confidence we need to plan to slowly start lifting some more restrictions," he said in a statement this morning.

"Today, and informed by the advice of the Chief Health Officer, I can announce our cautious and careful next steps.

"The continuing low numbers of community transmission and the high rates of testing give us confidence that cafes, restaurants, pubs and other hospitality businesses can begin planning for a phased re-opening from the beginning of June."

From 1 June cafés, restaurants and pubs will be able to reopen their doors to serve meals to up to 20 customers at a time per enclosed space.

Andrews said from 22 June it is possible the number could increase to up to 50 patrons, and even up to 100 during the second half of July.

"The timelines we're announcing today are reliant on Victorians continuing to get tested when they show even mild symptoms and on those tests continuing to show low numbers of positive cases around the state," he said.

"Before each of these dates, the Chief Health Officer will review the rates of community transmission in Victoria, confirm our ability to test, trace and respond to possible outbreaks and make sure we have an adequate safety net in the health system before we take the steps outlined.

"This industry has told us they need time to plan and prepare to protect the safety of their staff and customers. Making these announcements now will be giving them that time."

Only one person per four square metres will be allowed and tables will need to be spaced at least 1.5 metres apart.

Venues will also be required to take the contact details of every customer to assist in rapid contact tracing.

"And there'll be other safety requirements too, including extra cleaning, staff health screening and temperature checks," Andrews said.

"Once in place, these changes will apply to standalone restaurants and cafes, as well as restaurants and bistros within a pub, hotel, bar, registered and licensed club, RSL or community club.

"Restrictions on other spaces within these kinds of venues - including public bars and gaming areas - will remain in place throughout June, as will restrictions on food courts."

He described hospitality as one of the pillars of the Victorian economy and has been one of the hardest hit by this pandemic.

"Reopening the venues we all love is a critical piece of the puzzle in saving jobs and restoring our local communities," he said.

"If, in the coming weeks, we see a sudden upswing in community exposures from an unknown source - we may have to make the call to delay.

"Similarly, if an initial opening led to a whole series of uncontrolled crowds or breaches - we'd look at that pretty seriously too."

Updated at 11:13am AEST on 17 May 2020.

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