In new rules that are set to impact the hospitality industry even further, the Federal Government has today announced new rules requiring four square metres per person for indoor gatherings of 100 people or fewer.
"What we are now moving to is an arrangement for gatherings of less than 100, is that they would be four square metres provided per person in an enclosed space, in a room. So that's 2 metres by 2 metres," said Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference this afternoon.
"So for example, if you've got a room, if you've got a premises, if you've got a meeting room or something like that, that's 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room."
The PM said in addition to these measures, put in place to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, patrons should continue to practice the 1.5 metres social distancing rule announced by the government earlier this week.
The new regulations apply to non-essential gatherings of fewer than 100 people, which includes restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs.
The Prime Minister said these measures are "practical and sensible" arrangements that can be managed.
"It simply means understanding how big the room is, and advising how many people can be in that room at any one time," he said.
For café and restaurant owners, the latest announcement has forced them to make swift changes to their business operations. From Saturday, Fleetwood Macchiato, a cafe in Sydney's Inner West, will move to a takeaway-only service.
"With the size of our place, the rules mean we'd have three people who could sit in there – it's not worth it," says co-owner Jai Pyne.
He acknowledges the importance of social distancing in managing the spread of the pandemic. Earlier this week, the neighbourhood café made its full menu available for takeaway, and its close proximity to residences means they've had regular business from stay-at-home workers.
However, he says the four-square-metres rule will have a devastating impact on small hospitality venues who are already struggling with a downturn in patrons. "I really feel for businesses in the city where workers are staying at home. There are people I know in the industry who are registering for Centrelink. It's becoming palpable and real now," he says. "This could be their death knell."
Still, he remains confident his business will survive. "Everyone is loving and supportive. That's one of the affirming things I've taken away from this so far."