Canberra businesses have accused inspectors enforcing coronavirus restrictions of being heavy-handed, with the legal basis for some of the chief health officer's rules questioned.
Australian Hotels Association ACT general manager Anthony Brierley said police and government officials came into restaurants and licensed venues with tape measures during the busy periods of trade last weekend.
Many then made different determinations of the number of patrons each venue should be allowed to cater for under the one person per four square metres rule.
But ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says the government will continue to enforce the restrictions this weekend, warning repeat offenders may be fined.
It comes as the situation in Melbourne worsens, with 33 new cases on Thursday.
Mr Brierley said most venues that exceeded their capacity at the weekend did so because of a genuine misunderstanding of the rules.
Restrictions were eased in the ACT last Friday to allow up to 100 patrons per space, depending on the size of each venue.
Many businesses applied the one-person-per-four-square-metres rule to their entire tenancy, instead of just the area patrons were in.
"We saw some pretty unfortunate consequences of that misunderstanding, Mr Brierley said.
"Authorised persons ... entered licensed premises on a Saturday night and measured them. They instructed patrons to leave.
"I think that was pretty heavy-handed for an honest mistake."
Mr Brierley said there was also confusion around government guidelines issued that did not appear in the coronavirus laws.
For example, venues have been told buffets are not allowed, and tables must be 1.5 metres apart.
However those rules are not explicit in the chief health officer's public health directions.
"I suspect it could be without a legal basis," he said.
"I think the industry should be expected to comply with public health directions because that is what's law.
"But if the industry is expected to be compliant with guidelines on a government website that can be changed as fast as anyone wants them to, then we're going to have continued talks about a lack of compliance, and I don't think it's fair."
Mr Brierley said fines should not be issued if a venue was found to be breaching a guideline not found in the legislation.
An ACT government spokesman said the public health directions were designed to be read in conjunction with the guidance and advice prepared by the chief health officer.
"Under the directions, businesses subject to restrictions are required to have a COVID safety plan and these plans must be developed with regard to the published guidance material endorsed by the chief health officer," he said.
"It's unfortunate that some businesses have not demonstrated compliance with the guidance and advice that has been provided.
"We know the community is mindful of the evolving situation in Victoria, so it is crucial that there is cooperation from all our businesses and the community to help keep the ACT free of COVID-19.
"So far, Access Canberra, the Health Protective Service and ACT Policing have taken a considered approach in their enforcement and have worked to educate and engage with businesses for effective compliance."
Ms Stephen-Smith said while the government was yet to issue any fines, she would not rule out taking action against businesses deliberately flouting the rules.
"The vast majority of Canberra businesses are doing the right thing and understand their responsibilities to keep their customers and our community safe," she said.
"These businesses are part of our community and I thank everyone for working so hard to keep us safe."