COVID breaches result in costly birthday lunch

COVID safety breaches at the Red Lion Hotel in Rozelle have resulted in $10,000 in fines after a complaint about a birthday lunch triggered a Liquor & Gaming NSW inspection.

The pub was hit with a double fine on Friday, totalling $10,000 for both the birthday breaches and other breaches on the day it was inspected.

Liquor & Gaming inspectors visited the pub on 15 August after receiving a complaint about a birthday lunch on 2 August where up to 40 guests booked on the balcony were seen mingling and drinking in breach of the Public Health Orders.

The booking was for four groups of 10 people and at the time police attended all patrons were seated, observing COVID rules.

However, after obtaining CCTV footage Liquor & Gaming observed the guests moving between tables, mingling, standing while drinking and greeting each other warmly with hugs and handshakes.

Liquor & Gaming Director of Compliance, Dimitri Argeres, said the venue was skirting the rules by splitting the booking which was clearly for 40 people who knew each other and were not willing to adhere to physical distancing.

“It’s these sorts of social get togethers that can spark a cluster and, when it comes to events like birthday parties and weddings, we’ve seen how quickly people are tempted to forget the rules and throw caution to the wind,” Mr Argeres said.

“We expect hoteliers to set exemplary standards, particularly when it comes to managing the heightened risk presented by groups mingling.”

When inspectors attended on 15 August, they found other issues such as an out of date safety plan and inadequately spaced chairs and tables, including patrons on different tables being seated too closely.

This is the first time the Red Lion Hotel was fined.

To date, 68 fines have been issued to NSW hospitality premises, which include bars, cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs, totalling $304,000.

The Lewisham Hotel in Lewisham was also fined $5,000 yesterday for breaches that included not having a valid COVID-19 Safety Plan and not spacing gaming machines at least 1.5 metres apart.

“Extra conditions were imposed on hospitality premises because they are higher risk spaces: people consume food and drink there – they stay longer and they touch more surfaces which means there is more opportunity for the virus to spread,” Mr Argeres added.

“Whether we like it or not, the rules are there for a reason. Tighten up your operations and take it seriously.”