NSW’s 150-person limit doesn’t apply to business events, new restrictions clarified

ICC Sydney's Geoff Donaghy said the new 150-person limit "doesn’t apply at all to our category of conference, convention and exhibition centres".

Business events in New South Wales will not be restricted to 150 people, following clarification around new rules announced last week.

Despite NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian mentioning “corporate events” in her press conference on Friday, Spice News can confirm the 150-person limit does not apply to conference and function venues.

According to NSW Government guidelines, conference and function venues can continue to go ahead and the maximum number of guests is still to be determined by the one person per four square metres rule.

Geoff Donaghy, deputy chair of the Business Events Council of Australia and CEO of International Convention Centre Sydney, confirmed there is no change in restrictions for conference and function centres and says the announcement has created a lot of confusion within the event industry.

“In NSW, they are stepping up the restrictions specifically for pubs, clubs and restaurants,” he told Spice News.

“The fact that [the announcement] mentioned corporate events of 150 people, they’ve confused our market and our client base as well.

“There’s a special category in the NSW regulations of function, convention and conference centres and our requirements haven’t changed at all – it’s still four square metres per person maximum per space, with appropriate social distancing measures.”

On that basis, Donaghy said the team at ICC Sydney are proceeding with “quite a significant number of events”.

“Clients have indicated to us that they still want to get their events underway, whether it’s an exhibition, a corporate meeting or an award function in the next five to six months,” he said.

“Our team spent some time on the phone yesterday communicating with clients directly and reassuring them that the regulations announced, despite the fact that they mention corporate events, specifically applies to pubs, clubs and restaurants and doesn’t apply at all to our category of conference, convention and exhibition centres.

“Having said that, these things change very quickly so we’re watching it very closely, but certainly at this stage we’re reassuring our intending clients that we can proceed with planning their events.”

NSW Government’s recommendations for events

Under NSW Public Health Orders, conferences and events must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place that covers a number of areas, including social distancing, hygiene and record keeping.

Within the social distancing checklist, the NSW Government reiterates maximum capacity of the venue must not exceed one person per four square metres of space (excluding staff).

Other guidelines include:

“For conferences, consider allocating people to topic-specific streams to minimise co-mingling between groups, and allocating specific seating areas to these streams for larger plenary sessions. 

For functions, consider allocated seating and encourage people to remain seated as much as possible to minimise co-mingling between seated groups.    

Seating must be separated by 1.5 metres. Household or other close contacts do not need to physically distance.

Ensure alcohol at any event is only served to seated attendees.

Reduce crowding wherever possible and promote physical distancing with markers on the floor in areas where people are asked to queue, such as for ticketing or for food or drinks.”

The latest guidelines for NSW conference and function venues are available here.

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