What you need to know about Victoria's rules for dining out

Restaurants, cafes, RSLs and bars like Boilermaker House are preparing to reopen.
Restaurants, cafes, RSLs and bars like Boilermaker House are preparing to reopen.  Photo: Paul Jeffers

Minimal condiments, no buffets and a maximum party of six. The regulations dictating how Victoria's restaurants, cafes and bars must operate if they wish to reopen from June 1st have been released, giving operators one week to whip out the tape measures and decide whether reopening in phase one is viable at all.

The regulations, laid out in a 30 page document, dictate how everything from take-away operations to toilets must be managed. Here's what you need to know.

Can I have a party?

Six is the maximum number of patrons who could dine together at a table. However the rules say, "larger family groups can book multiple tables, but tables must be spaced so that patrons at separate tables remain 1.5 metres apart when seated." It is unclear whether those tables would be allowed to interact.

Want to get a drink at the pub? You'll need a meal to go with that, according to Victoria's regulations.
Want to get a drink at the pub? You'll need a meal to go with that, according to Victoria's regulations.  Photo: Rebecca Hallas

Does my child or infant count?

Unfortunately for both families and venues, children and infants count toward both the 20 person limit, and the six person table limit. While venues may accept your booking, they may not feel they are able to while capacities are so limited.

Will everything be plastic?

That's up to the venue. The regulations say a venue can use its own crockery with appropriate sanitation as "there is currently no evidence to suggest any benefit in switching to disposable, single-use food and beverage containers, cutlery and crockery." That said, the requirement to thoroughly sanitise each item, door handle and EFTPOS machine, while also making sure that patrons are queuing for the toilets property is going to add so much extra labour to service that venues may choose to keep it simple in this first phase, especially if they are also continuing take out.

Can we just go out for drinks?

Not yet. The rules say "alcohol can only be served with a meal, which is more than a 'snack'. Restaurants and cafes should use common sense in applying this requirement, noting that menus are all different. That said, alcohol must not be served without food or with snack food only." This doesn't mean bars won't open. Boilermaker House, a whisky and beer den in the CBD, says they will be reopening from Friday the 5th of June, requiring all tables to purchase platters with their drinks.

Do I need to book?

Walk-ins are permitted, as is picking up takeaway. But bookings are highly recommended. To minimise the contact between groups of people, it is recommended that restaurants offer set sittings, for a maximum of two hours, without overlap. This has already thrown up problems in Sydney with late diners expecting extra time. If you do book, you must show up.

Do I have to give my personal details?

Yes. The regulations say the first name and phone number of every party member must be supplied and kept on record by the venue for contract tracing, but that "this information must not be used for any other purpose." If you refuse, or break the other health and hygiene rules, you can be refused entry or asked to leave. 


Does this mean the end of "menus designed for sharing"?

Apparently not. While buffets and shared condiments are not allowed, share plates are, "as long as they are shared within a group at the same table."

Operators must keep a record of those details and the date and time at which the person attended the venue, and the table number/dining room in which they were seated. This information must not be used for any other purpose

Why isn't my favourite restaurant opening?

While the increased capacity of 20 was preferable to opening for 10, social distancing measures, including the one patron per four square meter rule, affects businesses differently. For a restaurant like Entrecote in South Yarra, a converted mansion with multiple dining rooms, they can host a total of 46 across the entire building. But even so, owner Jason M Jones says the cost of staffing the building will be immense. For a tiny restaurant with one 40 square metre footprint, they would not be able to seat more than 10 patrons.

Jones, who is serving successful at-home meals from Entrecote says it will be a challenge but they will be opening from next week, however for other venues like Bouzy and Stamford Park it simply won't be worth it until all restrictions lift.

Correction: A previous version of this article listed Bouzy Rouge as one of Jason M Jones' businesses. This has since been corrected to Bouzy.