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Social Distancing and 1.5m

This article originally appeared in the Gault&Millau Newsletter on 1 August 2020.


Social distancing is simple.

But simple is hard.

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to the implementation of the 1.5m social-distancing rule in restaurants.

I recently put up a video on the 1.5m rule – watch here.

It is really very simple.

Regardless of the 4-square-metre or 2-square-metre rule, EACH and EVERY guest must be put at least 1.5m apart UNLESS they are part of the same group/booking/family. It is NOT necessary to have 1.5m between people in the same group or family.

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So, a couple that come in together can be seated at the same table, less than 1.5m apart, together.

A group of 4 businessmen who book a table for four, can be seated at the same table, less than 1.5m apart, together.

A family of six can be seated at the same table, less than 1.5m apart, together.

But all of these different groups must be separated by at least 1.5m.

And the 1.5m is between people – not tables. Measure the distance between the chairs.

A simple way to do this is to get a 1.5m pool noodle or a 1.5m piece of dowel and use this to space your tables and chairs.

A large group can sit at one large table if they are all part of the same booking. But otherwise, different groups of people on large tables must also be separated by 1.5m. Note that in NSW, no more than 10 people can be seated at the same table – even if from the same group.

And if seated at a long bench, bar or comptoir, guests still need to be 1.5m apart, unless they are from the same family or group …

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 … AND if at a bar, they must also be 1.5m from the server on the other side.

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Note that sitting at bars is restricted in most states.

To recap – the basic rule is to maintain 1.5m between all people UNLESS they are part of the same group or family. This is to minimise the spread of the COVID virus and so that authorities can contact everyone if there is an outbreak of the virus.

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The guidelines vary from State to State, so please check your local regulations with your local health authorities.

As demonstrated in my video, 1.5m is simply standing apart at full arm’s length. 1.5m is, for most adults, two arm-lengths or the distance from your left hand to your right hand with your arms stretched out.

Social distancing is vital, especially in places where people hang around together for some time, such as in a restaurant. And as a restaurateur, you are responsible for ensuring your guests stay 1.5m apart. Venue operators can be fined – and even shut down – for not enforcing the restrictions.

Venue operators are also required to record the name, telephone number and email address for EVERY guest who dines in, as well as staff and contractors. This information needs to be kept for between 28 and 56 days, depending on where you are. Contact details are generally not required for takeaway.

Right now, avoiding close contact with others is important, and whilst keeping 1.5m away from each other is not an exact science, it’s all about keeping some sensible and practical distance between you and others. 

Remember also to wash or sanitise your hands regularly. Wear a mask if you are in close contact with people, such as on public transport or as required in some States, such as Victoria. In fact, I recommend that all food service staff wear masks – both for the safety of staff and guests, and for the hygiene message it sends. And, of course, if you have flu-like symptoms, stay at home and seek medical advice.

Together we can all stay safe and dine another day.

By Jeremy Ryland

Information correct as at 31 July 2020.

Image by Hanson Lu –

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