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Summer Events

Planning to Party

COVID-safe Christmas and New Year’s Eve events – with restrictions easing around the country, traditional end of year celebrations have become a possibility. 

But will companies spend the money after such a difficult year? And how will people manage the COVID restrictions? Emma Castle finds out. 

Reduced budgets, working from home and venue restrictions all mean that the festive season may not be quite as cheerful as previous years.

Nevertheless, companies still want to reward their staff in a responsible and COVID-safe manner.

Despite concerns around hosting large groups, Sheridan Randall, owner and content director of CIM Business Events is positive.

“If there is one thing the easing of restrictions across all the country has shown us is people want to get together more than ever. There are still COVID-safe requirement for gatherings, but that doesn’t mean the fun factor has to be dialled down.

“The first thing to think about is whether you can take your event outside. The social distancing requirements make it easier if you can be in the fresh air, and with summer here why not make the most of it.

“Whether you are indoors or outdoors, it’s really about getting the basics right. Make sure everyone is aware of the protocols before they enter the venue, have a central register or QR code, make sure the seating and tables are spaced out accordingly and that the serving staff are all up to speed on COVID-safe service, such as wearing face masks or disposable surgical gloves.

“The days of buffets have gone, but that can be a blessing, with the opportunity to set up food stations with perfectly packaged culinary treats. Think gourmet personal picnic boxes, filled with fresh cheeses, antipasti or bite-sized sushi that can be taken back to the table. It means food preparation can be done in advance, which takes some of the pressure off.

“Ultimately, it’s about taking care of all the COVID-safe basics, so your guests don’t have to,” says Randall.


So what are the current rules? At present, public health rules in New South Wales allow up to 300 people at a corporate event, with a maximum of 30 people at a table. In the Australian Capital Territory, you need to apply for an exemption for events of 200 people or more, and in Victoria, pubs, bars and restaurants can serve up to 70 people outdoors and up to 40 people indoors.

In Queensland, businesses can have one person per four square metres on their premises indoors, or one person per two square metres outdoors. Businesses with an indoor floor space less than 200 square metres can have one person per 2 square metres, or up to 50 people at a time.

In South Australia, gatherings can have up to 150 people and in Tasmania, the venue limits are 250 people for an undivided space in an indoor premise, and 1,000 people in the outdoor space of a premise. Restrictions in Western Australia are minimal, with a basic two square metre rule for all gatherings.

Feature: COVID-safe events

Summer Events

Northern Territory is the clear winner when it comes to hedonistic freedom. Events with less than 100 people need only observe normal public hygiene standards, events with 500 people need a COVID-19 safety checklist, and events with over 500 people need to submit a COVID-19 event safety plan and receive formal approval from the Chief Health Officer. In October, Darwin even hosted a live music festival – Rebound Festival – for 3,500 people.

In New South Wales throughout November, selected venues have been hosting Great Southern Nights live music gigs.

These events are part of a NSW Government initiative, delivered by its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW in partnership with the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), to stimulate the revival of the live music and entertainment sectors and in turn the visitor economy in the recovery phase of COVID-19.

Hotel Manager Jamieson Howell from The Collector Hotel in Parramatta, says,“The government needs to be congratulated for supporting this initiative to bring live music back into venues. Live music has so many positive effects on venues including creating a really fun atmosphere, giving some income to musicians who have been struggling through the COVID closures, creating more hours for our team and our security, and creating more demand for our supplier’s products.”

Hygiene and cleaning schedule best practice during busy periods

Beyond guest registration, hand sanitiser, cleaning schedules and COVID marshals, what can venues do to make sure guests are comfortable?

The Camden Valley Inn has instituted QR code ordering with Me&u where guests scan a unique QR code at their table, order from an online menu and have their food delivered to their table with minimal interaction with other guests or staff. The app even emails the guest a receipt for their purchase.

For hand hygiene, the Tasmanian Government guidelines recommend using paper towels to dry hands – not just staff, but guests as well.

Feature: COVID-safe events
Feature: COVID-safe events

Trends and ideas

Justin Hemmes’ Merivale is offering ‘restaurant style’ parties at its venues that provide a ‘vibrant seated experience’. A Merivale spokesperson said that some employers are opting to replace Christmas parties with at-home dining experiences where staff receive a delivery of meals, wine and cocktail direct to their homes.

Merivale’s clients are considering everything from Drag Queen Bingo to a live-stream of an overseas performance accompanied by an in-person orchestra.

Meagan Patroni, Communications Manager at Melbourne-based company Orygen, says, “My work is doing team Christmas picnics and planning a celebration for all staff next year when everyone is able to be on site, but the most creative thing I have seen is how Fetching Events held a TV viewing party for its staff, with packs sent out to staff in advance.

Lunch time events are the preference over evening events, and seated activities such as tailored trivia, team building games and bingo in small groups are also popular options for companies wanting to host an entertaining and interactive event that complies with regulations.

Tracy Wood, director of event production company Funktionality says, “We are organising lots of Vegas parties with Elvis impersonators and croupier tables – so that guests can be seated. We’re also working on lots of outdoor seated picnics and festival-style seated events with food trucks where the food truck staff serve the food to the diners at their tables.

“After-dinner shows for seated dinners are making a comeback. For these, we’re doing a lot of ’Return to Rio’ shows that are really high energy and where guests can dance from their seats. Stage shows and dinner table games are very popular this year,” says Wood.

The ‘dinner and a show’ trend is reflected in the fact that for the first time ever, Bennelong at The House is now offering Bennelong Ensembles, a specially curated dining series where musicians from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and independent classical musicians, perform classical music on a specially created stage in the restaurant.