Australia Today

So, When Can We Go to the Pub?

There's good news—and some very sobering news.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
people at the pub
Image via Pixabay

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday that Australia’s coronavirus lockdown would finally start being wound back. If all goes to plan then things should return to some kind of normalcy by the end of July, he said, while outlining a three-stage approach to easing restrictions and leaving it up to the state governments to decide how rapidly each stage is implemented.

Overall the announcement was encouraging—if somewhat ambiguous—but it left one burning question. Namely: when, exactly, can we go back to the pub?


Australian states and territories will be granted freedoms at different times based on local conditions, which means unfortunately there’s not likely to be one particular night when the whole nation gets simultaneously trollied. To get some indication of how much longer each of us will be forced to wait, though, let's break down the three stages of loosening restrictions.

The first stage, which has already been implemented by most states, allows a maximum of five people to visit a person’s home and a maximum of 10 people to gather in businesses and public places. It also allows for small restaurants and cafes to reopen, although this does not include pubs. Stage two allows a maximum of 20 people to gather at a person’s home, at a business, or in a public place, and allows for gyms, cinemas, and galleries to reopen—but still, alas, no pubs. It isn’t until stage three that pubs and clubs will reopen and gatherings of up to 100 people will be allowed.

Each stage will be separated by a cooling-off period so health experts can observe any uptick in infections, and progress will be reviewed by the national cabinet every three weeks. That means we’re still at least a month-and-a-half away from any pub in Australia being legally allowed to reopen. In states like Victoria, which still have active coronavirus clusters, it could be several weeks longer than that.

Whenever it is that the pubs do finally reopen, they’ll still be subject to certain restrictions. The specifics of these restrictions are as yet unclear, but according to a proposal issued to the Prime Minister by the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), they could involve two more stages.


Stage one, according to Yahoo News, will require people in venues to stand 1.5 metres away from each other, and may involve other stringent hygiene measures such as mobile devices for food ordering and bollards in place at the bar to encourage social distancing. Venues are also being encouraged to have a single entry and single exit point to stop people walking into each other, as well as the possibility of temperature checks upon entering. Venue staff would also be subject to daily temperature checks wherever possible, and each venue would also have a nominated hygiene, capacity and distancing officer.

Stage two would see restrictions eased based on evidence of what worked from stage one.

Some evidence suggests, however, that even once restrictions are lifted there’s unlikely to be a flood of thirsty punters rushing to the nearest pub. A new survey of 2,225 people by Vox Pop Labs, in collaboration with the ABC, found that only 40 percent of Australians would go to a bar or restaurant right now even if they were allowed to. The survey further found that 41 percent of people think it will be more than 12 months before things are "more or less back to normal", 33 percent think it will take another six to 11 months, while just 23 percent think it will be less than six months.

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