What updates have been made to outdoor Covid guidelines?

Q&A: What’s going on with live music and what exactly does ‘outdoor’ mean?

An outdoor dining space, such as this on South Anne Street, can be covered by a roof so long as not more than 50 per cent of the perimeter is covered by a wall or windows.Photograph: Alan Betson

An outdoor dining space, such as this on South Anne Street, can be covered by a roof so long as not more than 50 per cent of the perimeter is covered by a wall or windows.Photograph: Alan Betson

 

So, can I have an outdoor event for up to 200 people?

Yes. Previous advice and guidelines on this point had been unclear, but now new guidelines have made clear they can go ahead.

Can all venues have 200 people?

No, the capacity of outdoor areas must be reviewed by a premises and this will depend on the overall area of the outdoor event space. So the upper limit is 200 people, but it depends on the size available.

What about table sizes and distancing?

Table sizes are the same as for indoor dining, with six people aged over 13 and a top capacity of 15 overall. There must be one metre between tables.

What’s going on with live music?

This was another instance where the guidelines were more restrictive than the laws upon which they were based - and these latest guidelines have relaxed the stance, at least for outdoor dining. Live music and performances can now be performed in outdoor settings, so long as the performance area is two metres from the customers.

And how about table bookings?

You can now book multiple tables in an outdoor area.

And mixing between tables?

If there’s a flashpoint, this is it. Members of the industry are outraged already over a new stipulation which says intermingling between tables is not permitted, saying this will be impossible to police or work in practice

Guidelines say there should be “robust measures” in place to “ensure that customers are not permitted to move freely around the outdoor event area”.

What does this mean for confirmations and communions?

The advice is still against them, but the hospitality sector now believes it can take bookings for events related to these ceremonies, so it is likely just a matter of time until the overriding advice changes. The concern from a public health point of view was always about events around these days, not the sacraments themselves.

And weddings?

It seems the limit of 100 people on weddings will still apply, as will the ban on live music at a wedding ceremony. This is for indoor weddings. It is not clear if you can have a larger wedding outdoors, but logic would seem to suggest as much.

How about bar and buffet service?

Still barred (pardon the pun). However, there is allowance for buffet/BBQ style fare, albeit in a very structured manner. Access to areas where customers collect their own food must be “staggered”. It can only be operated where a queueing system can be put in place. Otherwise, a table service must be used.

The queueing system must be overseen by dedicated employees. All items for customer use at a buffet should be “individually wrapped or a single serve item”. “Pre-prepared covered portions are recommended,” while “once the customer has collected their food, they must make their own way to their assigned table.”

And what exactly defines “outdoor”?

There have been some liberal interpretations of “outdoor” on show recently, and these guidelines should bring some clarity to proceedings.

An outdoor space can be covered by a roof so long as not more than 50 per cent of the perimeter is covered by a wall, windows, gate or similar type of construction. Outdoor areas must not be wholly or substantially enclosed, the guidelines state, meaning in practice it cannot have sides that can be opened or shut or cover more than half the perimeter.

A marquee or gazebo with a roof and four sides, for example, would not be an outdoor space and would instead need 50 per cent of its wall area open to the external air. Much of the area of outdoor spaces must be cleaned twice daily, including entry and exits, smoking areas, seating and benches and toilets, while tables, seats, trays and reusable items have to be cleaned more frequently.

What about smoking?

The recommendation is for smokers to be given a separate outdoor area.

Anything else?

Much of the cleaning protocols, rules on signage and customer information, contact tracing rules, mask wearing when not at a table and for staff are the same as for indoor dining.

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