Outdoor laws: What you need to know

Outdoor spaces are a great asset for accommodation providers, offering a perfect setting for guests to relax, dine or drink. With smoking laws continuing to change in many states, and particularly with the introduction of a new Victorian smoking policy this week, Accomnews looked at how hotels can make the most of their outdoor spaces with regards to new and existing health and safety regulations.

When it comes to health and wellbeing, fresh air and greenery go a long way. Whether you’re hosting weary travellers, busy business guests, or young families, having a public outdoor space can provide guests with a retreat from their room, while allowing them to enjoy your hotel offerings and purchase meals, drinks and snacks without the hassle of leaving the premises. Being that this is mutually beneficial, making the most of outdoor spaces such as bars, pool areas and alfresco dining should be a priority for any hotel.

With changing regulations, it’s inevitable that some changes may need to be made to hotels’ public outdoor spaces, particularly in Victoria, making it a great time to update a space and give it a facelift. Are you up to date with the outdoor health and safety regulations for your state or territory?

New Victorian regulations

As of August 1, 2017, changes to the 1978 Tobacco Act have become effective, meaning that smoking is no longer permitted in outdoor dining areas across Victoria, or within 10 metres of food vendors at organised events. While smoking may be permitted in outdoor drinking areas under some conditions, these drinking areas must be separated from outdoor dining spaces by a 4 metre ‘buffer zone’, or a wall of at least 2.1 metres.

According to the Smoke-free Outdoor Dining Guide, provided by the Victorian State Government Department of Health and Human Services, an ‘outdoor dining area’ is defined as ‘any outdoor public area that has an occupier, and in which the occupier permits the consumption of food provided on a commercial basis, whether or not the food is prepared by, or on behalf of, the occupier’. It lists typical examples of outdoor dining areas as footpath dining, courtyards, balconies or beer gardens.

With a number of hotels offering outdoor dining or drinking spaces as part of a breakfast buffet, hotel restaurant, or pool-side bar, it’s important for Victorian hotel and accommodation venues to be aware of the changes and ensure their venue is compliant.

Queensland regulations

Queensland introduced new smoking bans for both indoor and outdoor public areas on February 1, 2017. The new laws prohibit smoking within 10 metres of any public facilities, escalating on existing laws which state that smoking cannot take place in any commercial outdoor eating or drinking areas, or within any restaurant or place of work.

New South Wales regulations

As of July 6, 2015, the New South Wales Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 was extended to include a prohibition of smoking in commercial outdoor dining areas, including any seated dining, within four metres of seated dining on a licensed premises, or within 10 metres of food service. The law does not prevent the creation of designated outdoor smoking spaces in licensed premises, provided that they meet all requirements of the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000.

Australian Capital Territory regulations

According to the Smoke-free Public Places Act 2003, smoking was banned in all outdoor eating and drinking areas within the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on December 9, 2010. While many occupiers have also introduced restrictions on smoking between five and 10 metres from building entrances, this is not part of the Smoke-free Public Places Act in the ACT.

Tasmanian regulations

According to the Tasmanian Government Department of Health and Human Services, the state has some of the toughest smoke-free area laws in the country. Smoking is prohibited in outdoor dining areas during meal times, which includes times that food is available for service, regardless of whether patrons are frequenting the area. It is also banned within three metres of an outdoor dining area. Designated outdoor smoking areas are permitted, but must not have a roof, be within three metres of a building entryway, and cannot be serviced by staff. Patrons may drink, but not eat within smoking areas, and they must be clearly signed. A smoking area may be three metres from a non-smoking area, unless a boundary wall of 2.1 metres is installed.

South Australian regulations

Since July 1, 2016, smoking in outdoor dining areas and temporary eating spaces has been prohibited. Unlike some other states, the smoking laws are extended to pipes including shisha, hookah, and water pipes. Smoke free areas are to be clearly signed.

Western Australian regulations

Western Australia introduced a ban on smoking in outdoor dining spaces on September 22, 2010, making it an offence to smoke in outdoor eating areas where diners are seated for meals. Hotels are permitted to allocate no more than half of their outdoor licensed areas as smoking zones.

Northern Territory regulations

While smoking is still permitted in many outdoor areas in the Northern Territory, it is not permitted in any outdoor dining space, including courtyards. This includes non-liquor licensed outdoor dining areas. Licenses premises that meet strict requirements can establish and operate outdoor smoking areas, but require an outdoor smoking area certificate to do so. 

In all states, both individuals and occupiers can be fined for non-compliance, so it’s important that outdoor areas in hotels and other accommodation are clearly signed for guests, and that staff are up to date and aware of regulations.

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