Unity Hall Hotel first NSW pub to close for COVID breaches
The Unity Hall Hotel in Balmain has been ordered to close after multiple breaches of the Public Health Order.
The hotel has been ordered to close for seven days from 5am this morning, and has been fined $10,000 by NSW Liquor & Gaming and NSW Police. The order for closure comes after the pub was found to be hosting two birthday parties that were not in line with COVID-19 Safety Plan requirements, one day after receiving penalty notices for other breaches.
Inspectors can temporarily close venues after second and third offences of the Public Health Order.
“The venue was fined $5,000 after our inspection on 5 August, where inspectors identified an out of date COVID-19 Safety Plan, inadequate sign-in processes relating to not recording times of entry and digitising records, and a lack of physical distancing between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,” stated Liquor & Gaming director of compliance, Dimitri Argeres.
A penalty notice was issued for those offences on 7 August. Police then attended the pub on 8 August, in response to a complaint from a member of the public.
When they arrived, police observed what appeared to be one private function of 32 guests who were dancing, standing and mingling while consuming alcohol.
Police fined the venue $5,000 and then referred the matter to Liquor & Gaming to consider further action.
Unity Hall Hotel responded to the closure via social media on Tuesday evening, apologising to its patrons and the wider community.
“We acknowledge that we did not fully understand every aspect of the changing regualtions 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 the wider community, and we look forward to providing a safe place for you in the future.”
The Unity Hall Hotel was purchased late last year by experienced publicans Geoff Roddy, John McRedmond and their families for $20 million.
Majority of venues remain compliant
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian went on Channel 9’s Today Show this morning to express her disappointment, but to also remind the public that most venues were complying with new health and safety measures.
“I’m really frustrated because the vast majority [of hotels] are doing the right thing. But you have to have three strikes before we shut you down, so that’s really disappointing.
“If you’ve had a fine, and then you ignore it and do it again, that is how the disease spreads. If one person who has the disease went and had a drink at that pub and it wasn’t COVID-safe, hundreds of people could have been infected,” the Premier explained.
“That is a huge issue and we will clamp down on business that don’t do the right thing. That’s the understanding we have with the business community, with the community at large. We want to do the right thing by everybody, by letting everybody open and be COVID-safe, but we also expect businesses to do the right thing as well. Most of them have been, most have been fantastic, it’s just a small minority.”
Inspectors from Liquor & Gaming, SafeWork NSW and NSW Fair Trading have issued a total of 108 fines to NSW hospitality businesses, amounting to $480,000.
AHA NSW is urging pubs to remain vigilant with their compliance, as we head into warmer weather.
“It is as important as ever for venues and patrons to comply with the rules that are keeping us all safe and keeping NSW open – and it is good to see the vast majority of venues are doing the right thing,” stated John Green, director of liquor and policing.
“As we head towards the summer months we need to stay the course and defeat this pandemic together.”