Thinking | 22 October 2020

Retailers to benefit from new relaxations in New South Wales

By John Gray and Tamara Charlwood

New cases of COVID-19 remain steady and low in New South Wales. Following this trend, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced a further relaxation of public health restrictions with an emphasis on facilitating a COVID-safe economic recovery. The changes are encouraging for retailers as patron numbers are steadily allowed to increase.

Last Friday’s relaxation of restrictions

From Friday 16 October 2020, Ms Berejiklian announced the easing of certain restrictions for hospitality venues (which includes casinos, micro-breweries and small distilleries, pubs, small bars and registered clubs).

  • Hospitality venues must continue to register as a COVID-Safe business.[1]
  • Following on from Monday 28 October, in an interesting example of digital transformation, hospitality businesses are highly encouraged to use electronic methods to record and keep contact details of patrons. This is part of the broader COVID-safe scheme, such as requiring hygiene marshals and utilising QR codes to assist contact tracing.
  • Corporate events are no longer limited to function centres. This clarifies that corporate events can be held at other appropriate venues, like restaurants, and will remain subject to the 300 person maximum.
  • A key shift was the ratio that determined how many patrons are allowed at outdoor hospitality venues. Previously, one person per four square metres was allowed – this has now shifted to allow one patron for every two square metres. The total capacity of a venue remains capped at 300 persons.
  • Outdoor music returns in a big way – now 500 people are allowed to attend outdoor and seated music performances and rehearsals. This remains subject to the four square metre rule and seating is required.

The forthcoming relaxation of restrictions

  • The previous Friday’s changes seem modest with the newest round of changes slated for Friday 23 October. Excitingly, hospitality venues will be able to book large groups for events closer to the ‘old normal’ levels.
  • For hospitality venues, the maximums of group bookings of ten and ten patrons per table will be scaled up to thirty patrons each.[2]
  • Thirty people will be able to gather together outdoors in public spaces, jumping from the previous twenty.[3]
  • Ms Berejiklian also foreshadowed that from 1 December 2020, the number of people who can attend weddings will be lifted to 300 people. This will remain subject to the four square metre rule indoors and two square metre rule outdoors.

Reaction from the sector

  • Ms Berejiklian and other key ministers have gone on record about how the forthcoming relaxation of restrictions will help drive economic recovery while remaining COVID-safe.[4] Indeed, Ms Berejiklian has asked people to consider supporting local venues and restaurants when organising weddings and Christmas celebrations.[5]
  • Now that cases in Victoria and New South Wales have reached similar levels, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is encouraging Victoria to ‘move safely and quickly towards the NSW model of strong contact tracing and a COVIDSafe but predominately open economy’.[6]
  • Similarly, there is speculation that some hospitality venues in regional Victoria could enter into a bubble with New South Wales to benefit from the relaxation of restrictions there.[7] There are hopes that restrictions on travel between Tasmania and New South Wales will also be eased from 2 November.[8]

If you would like to discuss how the New South Wales COVID restrictions are impacting your retail business, please contact a member of our Retail & FMCG team.


[1] Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 5) 2020 (NSW), s 7(3)(b).

[2] https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/what-you-can-and-cant-do-under-rules#recent-and-upcoming-changes

[3] Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 5) 2020 (NSW), s 22(1) - specifically excludes outdoor music rehearsal or performance which falls under s 21B.

[4] https://www.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/covid-19-restrictions-eased-2020-10-19

[5] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/zero-new-local-covid-cases-in-nsw-up-to-30-people-allowed-to-gather-20201019-p566e9.html

[6] https://www.pm.gov.au/media/joint-media-statement-victorian-restrictions

[7] https://www.afr.com/policy/health-and-education/the-wedding-venue-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-murray-20201019-p566dt

[8] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-19/tasmania-border-announcement-covid-travel-restrictions/12781832

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John Gray

John is a senior corporate and commercial lawyer who has specialised in technology and intellectual property law for over...

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