The hospitality industry has been holding its breath for the green light to reopen, and the good news has finally arrived.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced a three-step plan which will see small restaurants and cafes open as part of stage one.

“Today, we move ahead with reopening our economy and our society, with a clear plan, and a clear framework, that shows Australians the road ahead,” Mr Morrison said in a press conference held after the National Cabinet meeting this morning.

States and territories will set their own timelines and specific details for each stage, but strict social distancing and increased hygiene measures are essential. Venues across the country will need to maintain one person per 4sqm, which is a federally mandated rule. This rule includes both patrons and staff.

While restaurants and cafes are in stage one, pubs and clubs are in stage three, with all stages expected to be completed by July.

The National Cabinet will review each stage every three weeks.”We know we need to be careful to preserve our gains, if we wish to reclaim the ground we lost, we cannot be too timid,” said Mr Morrison.

Peak industry body Restaurant and Catering Association (R&CA) provided the government with a set of guidelines to help hospitality businesses operate safely. R&CA CEO Wes Lambert welcomed the announcement.

“We have been working closely with state and federal leaders to seek to chart a path that will allow thousands of small restaurants and cafes to re-open their doors and start serving customers for dine-in once again,” said Mr Lambert.

“Our best practice guidelines have been formulated with input from leading epidemiologists and provide a practical way for venues to reopen safely. The guidelines have a strong focus on contact tracing, social distancing and accreditation to give comfort to governments, health officials and customers as our economy restarts.”

The accommodation and food service industry has been hardest hit by the pandemic’s economic effect. One-third of jobs in the industry were lost between 14 March and 18 April.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, over 441,100 jobs in the wider accommodation and food services industry have disappeared, it is so important that these businesses be allowed to re-open again, in a safe way, to get Australians back to work and our economy running once again,” said Mr Lambert.

“Our industry is ready and willing to reopen, ready and willing to follow best practice rules and most importantly, ready and willing to start serving customers again.”

What’s allowed in your state or territory? 

Australian Capital Territory

Venues can seat 10 guests at a time, across both indoor and outdoor areas, from midnight on Friday 15 May. The ACT government will continue to work with businesses on their COVID-safe transition plan, with further increases to maximum seated occupancy expected in the coming months.

New South Wales 

From Friday 15 May, restaurants and cafes can have 10 patrons at any one time, with stage two and three of the National Cabinet’s roadmap to be assessed in due course. 

Northern Territory 

The Northern Territory released its roadmap to reopening ahead of the National Cabinet’s announcement, with venues set to open from midday on Friday 15 May. Under stage two of the Territory’s plan, restaurants, cafes and food courts will be able to offer dine-in service again, while bars, sports and RSL clubs will be allowed to trade so long as alcohol is only consumed alongside food. There are no limits on patron numbers, however customers can only attend venues for two hours at time. Businesses need to complete a COVID safety plan. 


From Friday 15 May, 10 people at a time will be allowed to dine-in at restaurants, cafes, registered and licensed clubs, RSL clubs and hotels. Bars and gaming will still be restricted. Up to 20 locals will be able to dine-in at venues in outback regions, with proof of residence required.

South Australia 

South Australia began easing restrictions on Monday 11 May, with a maximum of 10 people allowed for outdoor dining only at restaurants and cafes. RSLs will be able to welcome veterans but not offer meals or bar service.


Tasmania also began easing restrictions on Monday 11 May, with Premier Peter Gutwein outlining a three-step framework. Restaurants, cafes, pubs and other venues can offer seated table service for up to 10 patrons at a time. Establishments with multiple dining rooms can operate as two venues, each with no more than 10 people, meaning those businesses may have 20 guests for dine-in at one time. Each venue must have separate wait staff. Kitchens and bathrooms may be shared.


In the last state to remove restrictions on dine-in trade, venues will be able to welcome 20 guests at a time per enclosed space from Monday 1 June. The maximum capacity will increase to 50 patrons on 22 June, before jumping up to 100 mid-July. Premier Daniel Andrews stressed the timeline was subject to reassessment. 

Western Australia 

Meal service is allowed for up to 20 patrons at a time in restaurants and cafes, as well as within pubs, bars, clubs, hotels and casinos, from Friday 18 May. Businesses need to complete a COVID safety plan and hospitality workers need to undertake COVID-19 hygiene training.


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