Updated 5.36pm: The latest on how coronavirus rules apply to bars

There have been a number of developments take place Sunday. There’s still much uncertainty as to what they can expect. Bars are still allowed to trade, however NSW, VIC, ACT are set to shut down bars and non-essential services over the next 48 hours.

Much of the governmental advice is emphasis the need for greater social distancing measures as a way to contain the coronavirus spread throughout the country — the so-called flattening the curve. What we can be sure of is that there will be further announcements from government, and we’ll be pulling the ones relevant for bars and updating them here.

So where do we stand?

This week, we’ve published a number of stories related to the outbreak and how bars can get through this time (which you can see here), and a call from Olivia Rockwell for members of the hospitality community to call your local members and demand wage support and small business support for those in the industry — something we think is worth an email or phone call. Click here to read the story and find the people to contact.

Here’s the latest we know as of 5:36pm, Sunday 22 March.

    • The NSW premier has announced that “Tonight I will be informing the National Cabinet that NSW will proceed to a more comprehensive shutdown of non-essential services. This will take place over the next 48 hours,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald. We expect that means that bars and restaurants will be forced to close.


  • Victoria has also announced similar restrictions on services, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. 
  • The ACT government late Sunday afternoon announced that they would follow the lead of NSW and VIC and shut down non-essential services.

Earlier today, the PM and treasurer have announced a raft of economic measures this morning. The ones that apply to bars and bartenders:

Early access to their superannuation: casuals who have seen their income drop by 20 percent and will be eligible to early access of up to $10,000 from their superannuation fund this financial year, tax-free. It will also be available next financial year. You’ll be able to apply through an online application with a declaration to the tax office.

For those who have lost their jobs, they are doubling the JobSeeker allowance, waiving the assets test and waiting periods. The move means this on JobSeeker (formerly NewStart) will receive more than $1,100 per fortnight. The income tests still apply, says Frydenberg. So sole traders and casuals who earn less than $1,075 a fortnight, will be eligible to receive the full coronavirus supplement, he said

All employing small businesses will receive at least $20,000, up to a cap of $100,000 says treasurer Josh Frydenberg, which is the “single largest measure in the second package.” They will automatically pay out through the tax office. The first payment will come through after the 28th of April, and no new forms will be required from small and medium businesses. It is aimed at keeping people employed.

The government is offering loans up to $250,000, with no repayments for the first six months and unsecured. “Go and talk to your bank about these new opportunities that are available,” says Frydenberg.

Flexibility in insolvency and bankruptcy laws: The threshold at which creditors can invoke insolvency laws will be raised from $2,000 to $20,000, with six months instead of 21 days to respond. Relief from personal liability for directors trading while insolvent, for six months, to get through this period.

On the health front, the PM also advised that any non-essential travel should be restricted. The national cabinet tonight is also considering more “draconian” measures in regards to social distancing.

The PM stressed that the social distancing measures already announced are designed to “save lives and save livelihoods.”

Take a look at the statement from the PM’s office here.

The measures come on top of previous updates below.

  • Both the Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC are reporting that the Prime Minister is set to unveil a $25 billion cash injection package for small businesses today. The gist of it is, the government will hand out a tax-free cash payment of up to $100,000. This will be linked to the PAYG withholding businesses report in their BAS, as a means to incentivise businesses to keep workers on. Just what the government will announce for those businesses — like bars and restaurants — which are unable to stay open in a time of social distancing, remains to be seen. There is talk of a boost to the Newstart allowance for those who do lose their jobs.
  • David Speers, on the ABC’s Insiders program, said on Sunday morning that he understands that superannuation will be able to accessed by those who lose their jobs.
  • Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced on Saturday morning that businesses in that state will receive a full refund of payroll tax already paid for the current financial year, and will be waiving (not deferring) payroll tax for the next quarter, on businesses with payrolls of up to $3 million. No liquor licence fees will be paid by 12,000 Victorian venues due to pay them at the end of this month, as they have been waived in a move that will cost the government $30 million. The measures are designed to free up cash flow for small businesses. The payroll refunds are expected to be in businesses bank accounts by the end of next week. Read more on at the ABC here.
  • Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore announced a $25 million on Friday evening, to support Sydney businesses, with measures aimed at providing for rent relief their City of Sydney’s tenants, refunding venue and advertising fees for bookings with them, waiving outdoor dining fees, and “if restaurants, cafes and bars have space to put chairs and tables outside to maintain their service, we encourage them to do so. We will not charge them for use of the footpath, or fine them for not having a permit. We will continue to complete our necessary health and safety inspections, but we will not charge the regular fee,” she says.
  • The PM announced further guidelines on Friday afternoon for indoor gatherings of less than 100 people. For each person in a venue you’ll need to allow four square metres of space. So that means that if your bar has 100 square metres of space, you’ll have space for 25 people, according to the PM. Does that include staff? We imagine it does. The enforcement of these measures will be a matter for the states and territories.
  • The Victorian government has announced that bars and restaurants may be able to apply for a limited licence that allows them to do take away sales, though limits apply on just how much can sell to one person — see the statement on the Victorian government website here.
  • The Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Wednesday morning that there is a ban, effective immediately, on non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 or more people, in addition to the previously announced ban on non-essential gatherings on 500 and more people.
  • Not every bar has an online store through which to sell merch and vouchers; Burrow Bar’s Chau Tran has a solution for you (and a way to get help with it).
  • Brisbane City Council on Thursday announced a raft of fee waivers and refunds for business in their local government area: “We will do everything we can to support our businesses through this extraordinary time and business charges, rent, fees or permits required to be paid will be waived until at least 30 June 2020. Businesses that have paid these fees since 1 March will have them refunded,” said Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, Adrian Schrinner. Click here to read the full statement.

We’ll continue to update this post as we learn more tonight and over the weekend. In the meantime, we’re going to fix a drink.