AHA clarifies new venue congregation bans

19 March, 2020 by Vanessa Cavasinni

With many hoteliers seeking clarification on what the Federal Government-mandated 100+ indoor ban means for their venue, the Australian Hotels Association has received accurate advice from government on what that means in a practical sense.

John Green, director of liquor and policing for AHA NSW, has clarified the 100+ indoor ban, and what that means for hotels.

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“From the Prime Minister’s comments and the Federal Government order that followed, this is designed to be a sustainable solution moving through this COVID-19 crisis. Based on that, and based on the definitions we’ve been provided, it is clear that the intent is that enclosed areas have a limit of up to 100, and that a large hotel can easily have multiple enclosed areas.”

The caveat however is that within all spaces, social distancing of 1.5m must also be applied between all patrons.

So as an example, a large hotel with a front bar, bistro, gaming room, function room and beer garden could feasibly and legally have 50 people in each of the indoor spaces and up to 500 in the beer garden, provided that social distancing is taken into account with the square meterage of each of these spaces. Employees are also included in these headcounts.

“It means that venues need to sit down and look at the square meterage of their entire venue, bearing in mind that staff are included in these numbers, and really come up with a model that meets the intent of the legislation,” explained Green.

“What we expect to see from venues is that they will modify the configuration of these spaces to ensure that social distancing is occurring. That may mean things such as moving tables further apart, shutting down machines to ensure there’s a 1.5m gap. Even in outdoor spaces that have a 500-patron maximum, social distancing needs to take place there as well.”

“A sustainable solution”

Green has no doubt that the coronavirus crisis will have “a devastating impact” on the industry, with many venues across the country forced to make very tough decisions to keep their businesses afloat.

“Across the country pubs directly employ 250,000 people. A large number of those are a casual workforce, and in terms of venue owners, we’ve got mum-and-dad owners right through to the very large corporations running multiple venues that are making some very hard decisions at the moment – they’re standing down staff, but we’ve also seen accommodation venues and pubs that are shutting their doors for now. We and government need to make sure that the pub industry survives out the other side of this.”

He says that the indoor ban is a sustainable solution from the government that allows venues to keep trading in some form, while keeping people safe – but only for as long as venues abide by the rules.

“Around the world there are many countries where they’ve closed bars and restaurants, and what we’ve seen from government is the intent to provide a model that will keep patrons and staff safe, while minimising the chances of this virus expanding. It’s important that all venues understand that their right to open is in fact a privilege, not a right, and can be shut down should the government think that venues aren’t taking this seriously.”

The AHA is currently seeking further clarification from government at both the state and federal levels on guidelines they expect to be issued later in the week.

“We will ensure that we are getting the most accurate information out to members  — and its important to members that they only consider accurate information – coming from industry associations and publications such as Australian Hotelier and TheShout.”