Canberra restaurants are taking creative measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 as venues reopen for dine-in customers.
The coronavirus-induced shutdown left Canberra's hospitality industry fighting for survival. Revenue dropped 90 per cent at Braddon's Assembly bar, owner Wes Heincke said.
His was one of several venues that remained open throughout stay-at-home orders, offering takeaway and selling stock as a makeshift bottle shop.
Fifty casual staff had to be let go, Mr Heincke said, but already 30 of those people had been rehired.
"Now we've reopened the response has been awesome because we've remained engaged with the community," he said.
As the ACT recovers from the pandemic, cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs can now seat up to 20 patrons per enclosed room for meals.
The rule has forced venues to get creative as they fight to maximise revenue while keeping safety at the forefront.
Mr Heinke installed temporary partitions in his Braddon bar, both inside and in the beer garden, to maximise patronage. Capacity is now capped at 95, just under 20 per cent of the 500-person licence.
Mr Heincke said the community response had been exceptional.
On the Queen's Birthday public holiday he was turning customers away as people lined up along Lonsdale Street.
"We were pretty much at capacity for five hours in a row," he said.
But the experience is different. Tables spaced out, contact details are collected, menus are discarded at the end of every service and a staff member is rostered on solely to sanitise tables and bathrooms.
Things are improving, Mr Heincke said, but revenue was still less than half what it was before the pandemic struck.
Civic restaurant Akiba has gone menuless, using QR codes to link to a virtual menu.
"The QR codes take you to a page with all our menus," Akiba operations manager Fraser Pollard said.
"It also has on the bottom of the page a space for people to to register details as part of the guest register, which is a requirement"
For those who cannot access QR codes on their phone, Akiba has disposable paper menus on hand.
Assistant restaurant manager Clancy Bain said these paper menus are made from recycled material, and will be recycled after use.
Mr Pollard said Akiba can allow up to 20 people dining in and social distancing measures were in place in the restaurant.
Mr Bain said he had received positive feedback from customers about Akiba's takeaway service.
"We will be still offering takeaway for dinner service and that will be from 4pm through to 7pm," Pollard said.
Akiba has also has implemented time slots for dine-in customers, from 7.30- 9.30pm and from 9.30pm onward to avoid overcrowding.
For some in the hospitality industry the pandemic has been a "wake-up call" prompting long-term change.
Omar Muscat owns three Canberra venues: Double Shot, Locale and Urban Pantry. After being forced to go back to basics, he said it would change the way he ran his businesses moving forward.
"As you get popular you grow with it but bigger is not better. It's nice to pull it back a little bit and reduce the space and give quality not quantity," he said.
For now, business is ticking along thanks to community support, but Mr Muscat was waiting for the next phase of eased restrictions to allow more people in his venues.
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