Pub fined for ‘second wave’ crush
An iconic Sydney pub has been fined for not imposing social distancing on patrons who crammed into a queue outside its doors on Wednesday night.
The NSW Office of Liquor and Gaming imposed a $5500 fine on the Golden Sheaf Hotel in Double Bay in Sydney's eastern suburbs after a picture emerged of scores of people queuing to get in.
The picture was reportedly taken at 9pm on Wednesday of up to 250 people waiting outside the pub without any obvious social distancing.
None of the people in the queue appeared to be anywhere near 1.5m apart.
NSW Government advice on managing pubs during the pandemic states operators must "introduce strategies to manage gatherings that may occur outside the premises".
But the picture will call into question whether some venues are doing enough to keep patrons safe.
The pub told news.co.au it worked with police to disperse the crowd last night and would employ extra security to ensure only 20 people at a time could line up outside the venue. It said it was the "collective responsibility" of staff and pubgoers to stay safe.
Wednesday has long been a student night at the Sheaf. However, the venue has said that last night was a standard pub night with no DJs or drinks promotions.
The picture was initially uploaded to the website Reddit and subsequently to Twitter. The initial poster asked "How many days until Sydney is locked down?"
Among the hundreds commenting are those suggesting the crowd could lead to a second wave in Sydney and a subsequent lockdown such as the one reimposed in Melbourne.
"I give it seven days," said one.
"How is the Sheaf getting away with this - it's still one person per four square metres isn't it?" said another.
Other comments included:
"What part of social distancing don't these people get? This is not the common flu!"
"Sydney to Melbourne: 'hold my beer'".
One suggested Sydney pubs were actually handling capacity and movement within venues relatively well, with groups seated most of the time and distant from others.
However, the concern was with the congestion this caused outside as large numbers of people waited for sometimes long periods to gain entry.
Other people were less worried about the queues pointing out local transmission in New South Wales was still virtually non-existent.
"Why am I supposed to buy into the hysteria and get offended by this crowd when we had one local case today?"
Although one person retorted it wouldn't take much for COVID-19 to begin spreading: "All we need is one COVID ridden visitor from Melbourne and the next thing we're Florida".
GOLDEN SHEAF HOTEL'S RESPONSE
In a statement to news.com.au, chief executive officer of Solotel pubs group Justine Baker said the firm was practising "strict social distancing and COVID hygiene and safety procedures" and adhered to NSW Health guidelines.
"We take the safety of our guests and staff very seriously, which is why we will now be taking bookings only on Wednesday nights from 8pm and we will be employing extra staff and security to ensure social distancing is adhered to and we have a maximum of 20 people in our queues at any one time.
"We employ management and security staff to monitor queues constantly - at the Golden Sheaf last night we worked immediately with police to disperse the crowd and ensure social distancing measures were established.
"It is the collective responsibility of all staff, guests, operators and authorities to ensure the safety of each other."
Australian Hotels Association NSW director of liquor and policing John Green said all hotels had a responsibility to manage inside and also outside their hotel to ensure social distancing.
"This is serious lesson for all NSW pubs. We need to do all we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements must be complied with."
Previously there have been concerns about crowds on beaches and in markets potentially spreading COVID-19 as well as the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
However, most instances of infection within groups in Australia have occurred in indoor locations where people have been together for large periods of time such as at workplaces, weddings and family gatherings.
NSW PUB RULES
Pubs and restaurants can operate relatively easily in NSW. On July 1, set capacity limits were removed and venues could accommodate as many people as they wished so long as there was enough room for one person per four square metres. However, all customers must have a seat and must socially distance when, for instance, going to the bar.
Tables must also be at least 1.5m apart and groups of more than 20 are not allowed.
NSW recorded eight new cases of coronavirus yesterday. Seven of those were in hotel quarantine for returning Australians with one a woman in her 30s from south western Sydney also infected although testing is underway to see if that was an historical diagnosis.
Despite the relatively low numbers, the state is on high alert fearful some of the upsurge of cases in Victoria might have seeped across the now-closed border. On Tuesday, an entire plane load of travellers from Melbourne were allowed to disembark a plane without any health checks.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is reportedly considering creating checkpoints north of Albury, where there have been some recent COVID-19 cases. That would allow the border communities of Albury and Wodonga to function as a whole, while trying to avoid cases there from travelling further north.
Yesterday, the ACT recorded its first three cases in weeks. All three were from travellers from Melbourne.
Melburnians are now back in lockdown for at least six weeks following the rapid raise of infections within the city.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @BenedictBrook
Originally published as Pub fined for 'second wave' crush