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The sound of champagne corks popping last month has been replaced by the clatter of pots and pans and the gurgle of coffee machines as Peninsula restaurants, cafes, pubs and RSLs prepare to welcome back their customers.

The State Government’s announcement that food venues were able to open from June 1 was no doubt celebrated by businesses that have been getting through COVID-19 as best they can since we went into lockdown on March 16. For them, reopening with restrictions is the first step towards recovery. For those of us who have missed meeting our mates for a coffee and croissant, a three-course meal or a parma and a pint, it’s a step closer to normality.

It’s far from business as usual, however. Venues will be allowed to seat no more than 20 people at a time – although this may increase to 50 patrons from June 22 and 100 in the second half of July – and must adhere to physical distancing rules. This means a density of one person per 4 square metres with tables at least 1.5m apart. So a 40 square metre space can hold 10 diners at a time as long as there’s a minimum of 1.5m between groups. A 100 square metre dining room is still limited to 20 guests. 

On top of that, venues will be required to carry out extra cleaning, perform staff health screening and temperature checks, and collect the contact details of customers for tracing. 

The announcement also applies to restaurants and bistros within pubs, hotels, bars, registered and licensed clubs, RSLs and community clubs, but other spaces within these venues – such as public bars and gaming rooms – will remain closed throughout June. Restrictions will also remain in place for food courts.

So it’s welcome news to every Peninsula food venue and all of us who have missed them. But before you book that table or hit the café, it’s worth heeding Premier Daniel Andrews: “This will only work if those who are going out to a cafe, or going out for a meal at a restaurant, or going to a bistro in the pub, actually follow those rules.” 

Because if we don’t, we could all be back in lockdown quicker than you can say “Does that come with chips or a salad?”

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