The Unity Hall Hotel, a popular pub in Balmain, Sydney, has become the first venue in New South Wales to get shut down for repeatedly breaching the coronavirus guidelines.
As The Daily Telegraph has reported, police found a large group of customers dancing and mingling together at the pub on August 8. It had already failed an inspection just three days earlier.
The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing said the pub had been hosting two birthday parties and not following COVID-19 Safety Plan requirements.
It has now copped $10,000 in total fines, and will be forced to shut for a week from 5am today until Wednesday, September 16.
The pub revealed the news to its patrons on Facebook on Tuesday evening.
“Today we received a closure notice from the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing for noncompliance of the COVID-19 health regulations on two occasions,” it said.
“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.
“Since the breaches, we have implemented a number of procedures that go above and beyond what is required of hotels to ensure the safety of our staff and patrons.
“We apologise unreservedly to our patrons and wider community, and we look forward to providing a safe space for you in the future.”
Office of Liquor, Gaming director of compliance Dimitri Argeres said under the Public Health Orders, inspectors can temporarily close venues for second and third offences.
The pub received its first $5000 fine on August 7 after inspectors on August 5 “identified an out-of-date COVID-19 Safety Plan, inadequate sign-in processes relating to not recording times of entry and digitising records, and a lack of physical distancing between chairs and tables”.
The next day, police attended the pub after a complaint from a member of the public.
When they arrived, they observed 32 guests in what appeared to be a private function dancing, standing and mingling while consuming alcohol.
Police issued another $5000 fine and referred the matter to Liquor and Gaming to consider further action.
Inspectors reviewed the CCTV which corroborated breaches of physical distancing related to 10-person limits on bookings, dancing, and staying seated while consuming alcohol.
“This is the risk posed by not following the Public Health Orders and not adequately implementing COVID-safe practices,” Argeres said.
“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. 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.”
Inspectors from Liquor and Gaming, SafeWork NSW and NSW Fair Trading have issued a total of 108 fines to NSW hospitality businesses, amounting to $480,000.
Thirteen new fines were handed out between August 31 and September 7:
• Acacia Modern Japanese Restaurant – Gordon
• Bare Witness – Rhodes
• Caffe Jam – East Gosford
• Chambers Fine Coffee – Rhodes
• Bondi Bowling Club
• Juan Bowl & Tea – Redfern
• La Grillade – Redfern
• Ningaloo Café Bar – Redfern
• Nguyen Brothers – Alexandria
• Rhodes Phoenix Chinese Restaurant
• The Cockatoo Bar & Restaurant – Gordon
• The Coffee Club – Rhodes Waterside
• Went to see the Gypsy – Alexandria