Update: New Directions published for Regional Victoria

The DHHS has published new written directions overnight, including those that relate to the staged re-opening of facilities in Regional Victoria.

Copies of relevant directions are attached, and we provide the following summary of key details:

Residency Checks

The Directions contain more guidance with respect to the obligations on Regional Victorian venues when checking the residence of patrons. Those are as follows:

  1. Venues must ‘use all reasonable endeavours’ to determine a person’s ‘ordinary place of residence’, which must be as soon as practicable after either a booking is taken for that person, or as soon as possible after that person accesses/enters the relevant facility.
  2. Residency checks must be undertaken for each patron (not just one out of a group), except for patrons under 15 where they are unaccompanied, or under 18 where they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  3. The Directions state that an operator will have satisfied this requirement where they have:
    1. Asked the patron for their address; and
    2. Either required a photo ID to evidence that place of residence or required the patron to ‘make a declaration’ that they reside in Regional Victoria or are permitted in Regional Victoria.
  4. The DHHS advises that operators should refuse service or bookings where they are ‘not satisfied´ of residence in Regional Victoria, or not ‘reasonably satisfied´ the person has an authorised reason to travel or stay in Regional Victoria.  

It appears the DHHS will publish a template written direction but it is not yet available. When published, operators should keep copies of the directions available for when required.

We note for operators that ‘ordinary place of residence’ for the purposes of the lockdown period is the place where a person was residing at 11:59pm on 27 May 2021.

Food and drink facilities

The Directions confirm the following conditions for the operation of a food and drink facility (i.e. restaurant, licensed pub/club):

  1. Subject to an overall limit of 50 patrons in all indoor and outdoor spaces. There are exceptions to the patron capacity where the venue provides exclusive use for a single school gathering.
  2. Patrons must be seated ‘except when ordering food or drink, using toilets or entering and leaving the facility’.
  3. Dancefloors are closed at all times.
  4. Retail TAB facilities may open (discussed further below).
  5. Gaming machine areas remain closed.
  6. Children’s play areas appear to remain closed.

TAB Facilities

Standalone TAB facilities may open subject to a density quotient and a maximum of 50 patrons.

The Directions do not  state that there is any restriction on use of EBTs by patrons, or whether patrons need to remain seated at all times.

Our conservative advice at this stage would be that, where TAB facilities form part of a food and drink premises, they may be used provided that patrons do not carry or consume food or drink while standing and accessing those facilities. Venues should also ensure regular cleaning of high-contact surfaces.

Physical recreation facilities

The Directions provide that physical recreation facilities may operate in accordance with the following conditions:

  1. Indoor spaces other than toilets are closed (except where necessary for the purpose of accessing outdoor spaces);
  2. A maximum of 50 members of the public at the facility, and 10 per group (subject at all times to compliance with a 1 person per 4 sqm density quotient);
  3. Training activities only and no competition activities are permitted;
  4. Use of shared equipment is permitted provided it is cleaned between users (including golf buggies);

Facilities are defined as ‘a facility used predominantly for outdoor sport or physical recreation’, including golf, tennis, and lawn bowling.

The DHHS has also published the following information to distinguish between ‘community sport’ and ‘physical recreation’:

Community sport refers to competitions and training overseen by a state sporting association or equivalent governing body, such as country football and netball competitions overseen by AFL Victoria and Netball Victoria.  

Physical recreation is any other activity that is not associated with competition or training overseen by a state sporting association or equivalent governing body, including non-competitive casual sport and social play, fitness and gym classes. 

Sporting Clubs

Our office has received enquiries in the past week regarding whether larger sporting clubs that have both sporting facilities and bistro/dining facilities are subject to a single capacity of 50 patrons.

Our advice to date, including on receipt of similar enquiries last year, was that the question of whether a facility is subject to a single patron capacity is a question of fact and degree based on the physical features of the premises, details of the licensed area, and the nature of physical and practical separation between the two facilities. As such we can only provide advice on specific premises based on proposed layout plans, and particulars as to how functional separation is achieved.

That said, we consider that there will be instances where facilities are able to be considered, by nature of their layout and operation, to be separate facilities for the purposes of the Directions. If any operators would like further advice as to whether their facility can be considered to have separate sporting and dining facilities please contact our office.

We note also that the Victorian COVID-19 website has not updated their industry guidance and FAQs since the lockdowns commenced on 28 May 2021, and as such our advice is subject to further guidance as and when it is released.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.