Restrictions set to be relaxed for smaller venues in Canberra

Italian Brothers owner John-Paul Romano, welcomes easing COVID-19 restrictions for smaller venues. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Italian Brothers owner John-Paul Romano, welcomes easing COVID-19 restrictions for smaller venues. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Small Canberra venues are set to be the first to return to pre-pandemic occupancy levels in a further relaxation of ACT coronavirus restrictions.

Cafes, bars and restaurants with normal occupancy limits of 25 or fewer will not have to operate under the "one per person per four square metres of usable space" rule from Friday.

Businesses with capacity for more than 25 people in their venue will still have to follow that rule.

The move has been welcomed by small hospitality businesses which have been particularly affected by the restrictions.

But a peak industry body has blasted the "illogical" approach to the lifting of restrictions and called for it to be "more equitable".

The changes are subject to an assessment by ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman on Thursday, when she conducts her fortnightly review of restrictions.

A statement from ACT Health said businesses still had health and safety responsibilities.

"We recognise that this may mean that customers in a small business may not be able to maintain physical distancing of at least 1.5 square metres, however businesses should strive to separate groups or tables as far apart as practical within the usable space," the statement said.

"It is also important to continue the collection of contact details of visitors and patrons to ensure we are in a particularly strong position to contact trace if need be."

Australian Hotels Association ACT general manager Anthony Brierley said he was relieved at the changes but that restrictions were being lifted in an inconsistent manner.

He called for a "more equitable approach".

"This measure has the appearance of the Chief Health Officer picking economic winners and losers," Mr Brierley said.

"We are relieved that the coronavirus restrictions on the hospitality industry are finally heading in the right direction - albeit in a confusing, illogical and inconsistent manner.

"We look forward to a more-equitable easing of coronavirus restrictions across the whole hospitality industry, and call on the Chief Health Officer to provide a roadmap our industry can work towards."

Small hospitality businesses will benefit most from the changes.

Mr Romano said the rules were constraining. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Mr Romano said the rules were constraining. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Italian Brothers owner John-Paul Romano said his Manuka cafe has an occupancy loading limit of 12 people inside and has additional space for people outside.

But under the current restrictions the cafe is only allowed to have three dine-in patrons inside and outside is allowed either three tables of one of one table of two.

Mr Romano said the occupancy levels had been constraining for the business, which only opened on New Year's Eve 2019. But he said if the situation worsened he would be happy for restrictions to come back as public health was important.

"I'm very relieved at the changes because unfortunately the rules do disproportionately effect smaller businesses," Mr Romano said.

"There is no leeway in that you could have three tables of one but one table of two or you could have a family of five who spend all day together but could not sit together on one table.

It came as the ACT went another day without recording a new COVID-19 case on Monday. There have been 87,346 negative tests.

This story Restrictions set to be relaxed for smaller venues in Canberra first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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