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Can My Business Remain Open During COVID-19?

Can My Business Remain Open During COVID-19?

Restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 crisis mean that many businesses cannot continue to operate. Find out what the rules are for your business here.

17th April 2020
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in the Government taking strict measures to limit the amount of contact amongst people, meaning many businesses have had to close. As of 23 March 2020, all businesses must follow restrictions on whether they can trade. Here, we outline which businesses can and can’t remain open under the current guidelines.

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Which businesses remain open?

Firstly, most businesses including major retailers and department stores, may continue to operate if they comply with social-distancing guidelines. Under new measures, cafes and restaurants will also be able to operate but only through offering takeaway and delivery services. In some States (such as NSW), Australians can only leave their homes for essential reasons. This includes visiting a business which offers essential services or products. Under the national guidelines, essential businesses are:

  • Banks
  • Bottle shops
  • Convenience stores
  • Freight and logistics
  • Food delivery
  • Hospitals and Medical Centres
  • Petrol stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Supermarkets

Which businesses are non-essential?


Many businesses which host customers cannot continue to trade. This includes:

  • Pubs, clubs and bars
  • Gambling venues and casinos
  • Restaurants
  • Cafes

These venues can however, continue to offer delivery and takeaway services. Cafes and canteens may also continue to operate at hospitals, aged care homes, nursing homes, schools and workplaces (via takeaway services). If your restaurant is now offering takeaway instead of dine-in food, you do not need to apply for any other approvals.

Retail and property

The following activities are banned:

  • House auctions and also other real estate auctions
  • Open house inspections
  • Indoor or outdoor markets

Only private house inspections by appointment and food markets can remain open.

Beauty and Personal Care

In addition, hairdressers, barbers and salons may continue to operate. Physiotherapy and podiatry services can also remain open. These businesses must ensure no more than 1 person is present for every 4 square metres of space. Personal Care services that are banned include:

  • Beauty therapy
  • Spray tan services, waxing,
  • Nail salons
  • Tattoo and piercing parlours


Furthermore, activities where groups of people may come in direct contact for extended period must cease. These include amusement parks, arcades and also children’s play centres.

Performance areas such as auditoriums and stadiums are closed. Similarly, outdoor gatherings of 500 people or more are banned, as are indoor gatherings of 100 people or more.


Community centres may remain open for the purposes of hosting food banks or homeless services. However, the following community venues must close:

  • Health clubs, Fitness centres and social sport-based activities
  • Swimming Pools, Saunas and also Bathhouses
  • Recreation centres, Youth Centres and Community Facilities (PCYCs , RSL clubs)

Hefty Penalties for Businesses

There are hefty fines for breaching orders made under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) and equivalent State legislation. It is a criminal offence and also attracts heavy penalties. In the case of an individual, the maximum penalty is $11,000, or imprisonment for 6 months, or both and a further $5500 penalty may apply for each day the offence continues.

The Police may also issue on-the-spot fines of $1000 for an offence.


We do not yet know how long current restrictions will remain in place. However, it has been confirmed these measures will be in place for at least another 4 weeks. If you are running your business from home or have changed the way your business operates, you may need approval from your local government authority to carry out certain types of business operations.However, you may not need approvals for certain changes. It is advisable to check with your local government authority for specific advice on any change of use.

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Andrew Huynh

Andrew Huynh is a legal intern at Lawpath. He is currently completing a double degree in Business/Law at the University of Technology, Sydney. He is interested in commercial and intellectual property law. He is pursuing study in the legal implications of the disruption of technology.