A pub in Sydney’s inner west is the first venue in NSW to be closed for repeated coronavirus safety breaches.
A day after it was hit with a penalty notice for COVID-19 health breaches, the Unity Hall Hotel in Balmain was caught hosting two birthday parties and also failed to follow its coronavirus safety plan, NSW Department of Customer Service said last night.
The pub has been forced to close for a week from 5am today and has been fined a total of $10,000 by NSW Police and Liquor and Gaming authorities.
“I don’t enjoy seeing businesses shut, but if they are putting everybody else at risk I have no hesitation,” NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said.
“We don’t have a vaccine yet, we are still living in pandemic conditions and if people have any doubt about the severity of it, look at Victoria.”
The Unity Hall Hotel in Balmain is the first NSW venue to be closed down for COVID-19 safety breaches. (Facebook)
The pub had initially been fined $5000 after an inspection on August 5 revealed chairs and tables not appropriately distanced, inadequate sign-in processes and incomplete digitised records. Authorities said the penalty notice was handed out on August 7.
Police turned up the next day, August 8, responding to a pubic complaint. They found 32 guests drinking while standing, dancing and mingling at what seemed to be a private function, and fined the Unity Hall Hotel another $5000.
When Liquor and Gaming authorities reviewed CCTV from the venue, they confirmed it had breached rules for a 10-person limit on bookings, dancing, and only permitting drinking when seated.
Security footage shows people breaching social distancing rules at the Unity Hall Hotel in Balmain. (Supplied)
The pub last night apologised “unreservedly” in a post on Facebook and promised new procedures were in place.
“We acknowledge that we did not fully understand every aspect of the changing regulations and we should have.
“The standards required of the hotel by the health authorities are very high, but we recognise that the consequences of this virus are severe and are not to be taken lightly.”
Director of Compliance Dimitri Argeres said inspectors could close venues after a second offence.
“People in large groups who are known to each other are far more likely to mingle – including by dancing – and this increases the risk of transmission,” he said.
“Each person brings with them a history of interaction with others in the community which means the more people in a group, the more close contacts they are sharing across that group.
“To repeatedly not comply with the Public Health Orders poses a clear and significant risk to public health.”
So far, 108 fines totalling $480,000 have been handed out to hospitality businesses in NSW.
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