The ACT's hospitality industry is desperate for social distancing requirements to be eased, fearing businesses will be forced into hibernation to survive the pandemic.
The owners of some of the territory's most popular bars and pubs have banded together to call on the government to urgently ditch the one per four square metre rule.
Australian Hotels Association ACT branch general manager Anthony Brierley said the sector edged closer to oblivion each day the rule was enforced. He said the time was right to instead impose a two square-metre rule for indoor space.
"This will ensure that adequate social distancing will continue, while also giving Canberra's pubs and bars a shot at survival," he said. "The ACT hospitality industry relies on the cash generated in December to provide liquidity until August next year.
"Time is of the absolute essence - each day brings us closer to oblivion."
ACT Health says the one person per two square metre rule is among restrictions being considered in time for this week's scheduled check point. Glen Collins, co-owner of The Dock, said the business would have to closely look at its viability if capacity limits were not increased.
"Without a significant increase in capacity, we will potentially have to consider entering a hibernation period so that we still have our business on the other side of COVID," he said.
He said even when including all available outside space, the pub was only able to hold 40 per cent capacity. That figure would need to be closer to 75 per cent for the venue to remain viable.
Antony Arena, CEO of Lala Hospitality Group, said the government had been oblivious to the impact the four square-metre rule had on businesses. The group owns bars including Molly, Highball Express, and 88MPH. "The over-conservative nature of the ongoing restrictions is killing the hospitality industry in Canberra," he said.
Other business owners say pubs and restaurants are being unfairly targeted, while shopping centres, supermarkets and retail stores do not face onerous restrictions.
"We're paying rent on floor space the government won't less us use," Frank Condi, owner of Edgar's, The Inn, and Public said. "If we're allowed one patron per two square-metres indoors, the industry might be able to tread water until there is a vaccine."
The pub owners say Canberra's unforgiving climate means owners can't rely on outdoor dining.
Brian Smith, representing bars including Hopscotch, said there was plenty of space in most venues to accommodates punters safely. "All I want for Christmas is the two-square metre rule for indoor spaces by December 1," he said.
An ACT Health spokesman said further easing of restrictions would be considered on Friday.
"All current restrictions are considered as part of the easing process, including density and gathering limits," he said.
"In assessing these limits, careful consideration is given to the cumulative public health risk of increased gatherings of people who don't know each other and the risk of outbreaks from these groups.
"We are aiming to strike a balance where we can continue to move forward and support businesses, but in a staged and cautious manner to keep our community safe."
He said an increase in the take-up of electronic tracing methods, like QR codes, would give the government confidence to ease restrictions further.
"Increases in gathering sizes carry increased risk for any type of business, and in considering allowing increased capacity, consideration is also given to introducing increased measures to ensure the safety of the ACT community," the spokesman said.