Food court feasts, midnight gym sessions and more buddies at the pub — here’s what’s changing in Canberra from today

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If you enjoy the peace and quiet of a midnight session at your 24-hour gym, cancel your plans for tonight.

Or if your lunchtime routine has been thrown out by the closure of Canberra’s food courts, you’re back in luck.

Canberra’s coronavirus restrictions will be eased (ever so slightly) from today, as the city moves to stage 3.1 from 9:00am.

Here’s what is changing from today:

No more eating out of a takeaway plastic tub — food courts are back

An empty food court in Canberra.
Food courts have been takeaway only since coronavirus restrictions began in the ACT.(

Food courts will be able to reopen for seated, dine-in customers from today, after having to rope-off tables and chairs for months.

Outlets within food courts have been operating as a takeaway service only since restrictions were introduced.

But from today Canberrans are allowed to sit and eat in food courts once more.

Food courts will still have to observe the one person per four-square-metre rule within their usable space.

And groups will be small — tables can only be arranged for a maximum of six customers.

Self-serve buffets remain banned, along with communal snack bars and condiments.

Push the tables together — big groups are allowed at the pub

You will still have to be seated while drinking at a bar, pub or club — but from today, at least you will be able to sit with a few more mates.

Limits on the size of group bookings in venues are being lifted altogether, with no cap in place from today.

The number of people allowed inside a venue remains unchanged.

The four-square-metre rule remains in place, up to a maximum of 100 people for each indoor and outdoor space.

Health officials had previously flagged a move to allow all venues, no matter their size, to seat 25 customers — but that it not taking affect yet.

Bicep curls better after midnight, they say

A woman lifts weights in a gym.
24-hour gyms are able to remain open overnight for a maximum of 25 people.(Unsplash: John Arano)

24-hour gyms can resume keeping their doors open all night from tonight, and can operate unstaffed.

There will be a cap on the number of people within the gym while unstaffed, with the limit set at 25 patrons.

And there will still be broader limits on the number of people in gyms at any one time, with the four-square-metre rule still applying.

Changerooms will also be able to remain open all night, so long as a strict cleaning regime is in place.

Saunas, steam rooms and bathhouses can also open up.

Pokies are back and the casino is open

Three poker machines inside Canberra club.
Canberra clubs can fully reopen now including pokie lounges.(ABC News: Diana Hayward)

Canberra’s pubs and clubs can switch the poker machines back on from this morning.

The closure of poker machines had been a point of controversy, as they were allowed to return in New South Wales some months ago.

Casino Canberra is allowed to reopen, and will be opening its doors from midday.

Strip clubs and brothels can also reopen, along similar guidelines as other venues (like the four-square-metre rule).

All guests will have to provide their first name and phone number upon visiting, but those details can be destroyed after 28 days.

What is still to come?

The most significant changes still to come are likely around the capacity limits for venues.

The move to a one person per two-square-metre rule, which would allow a doubling of capacities at some venues, remains some way off.

It has previously been suggested it would be part of stage 4 restrictions.

However, the 100-person capacity limit could be removed before then — allowing venues to fill their spaces as they like, while keeping to the four-square-metre rule.

Larger crowds at Canberra Stadium (possibly up to 6,000 spectators) are also a possibility.

The 25-person cap on gyms while unstaffed overnight may also be removed.

Nightclubs, along with mass gatherings like music festivals and conferences, are considered to be the highest risk activities and are still a fair way off returning.


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