Fed up venues to ignore virus restrictions
Restrictions across Australia may have eased but wedding venue and restaurant owners have slammed the government for capping their customers despite allowing protesters to flood major city streets.
Businesses began expressing their frustration, threatening to ignore coronavirus restrictions after more than 60,000 people took to the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane over the past few days to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Demonstrations were organised following the death of George Floyd in the custody of US police, and to protest against Indigenous deaths in custody.
Protests were eventually given the green light but after nearly three months following strict lockdown measures, business owners found it unfair, saying they're fed up.
Sal Navarra, who is CEO of popular Sydney wedding venue company Navarra Venues which owns Le Montage and Curzon Hall, has said he will no longer be taking government advice.
"Navarra Venues took a stance to keep our clients safe by upholding the NSW Government restrictions, now we are taking a stance to open - NAVARRA venues are bringing back events," he said on Instagram on Monday.
The company's six venues across Sydney will be reopening "effective immediately" from July.
"We will be reopening to any numbers," Mr Navarra said in a video post. "Yes we will implement social distancing, but we don't want to deal with upset clients anymore."
Currently in NSW, 20 people can attend a wedding, an increase from just five, including the bride and groom, last month.
Fellow business owners agreed, commenting that what Sal has said is "100 per cent correct".
"Why should venues continue to be punished," Sydney Fireworks and Pyrotechnic commented.
His decision also received the support of couples who have had to put their weddings on hold, with one bride saying it was great news for her special day which is scheduled to take place in September at the Cuzon Hall venue.
"We totally agree that it's bulls**t that protests and everything else are allowed (shopping centres etc). Thank you Sal and Navarra Group for taking a stand," the woman posted on Instagram, however she feared the move could lead to a fine "and then it cancels all of our weddings".
Mr Navarra, who was recently accused of refusing to refund customer deposits amid the coronavirus pandemic, said he didn't want to deal with upset brides and clients anymore "because it is not fair on them".
"Since the rally was the first of a large gathering permitted to proceed during the
COVID-19 pandemic surely this gives the event industry the go ahead," he said.
"At present I have dined in restaurants that have entertained more than fifty clients in their premises and who can blame owners they have been shut for three months, schools have resumed, retail has been going strong and my sales team has had to daily."
Mr Navarra said if there isn't a spike in coronavirus cases and "if my predictions are correct, we will open up on July 1, 7 or 15".
He continued that it is a total discrimination of the event space especially since the industry is in the best position to track any virus outbreaks.
He said venues will include social distancing and ten people per table, as they average 1.8 metres wide, along with sign-ins by every guest which will allow the NSW Government to trace outbreaks.
However, the wedding venue owner's decision has also been met with backlash, with a photographer calling out Mr Navarra's comments as being "tone deaf".
"With all due respect, I am currently in complete and utter shock as to how tone deaf your comment above is in regards to the Black Lives Matter protests that are taking place around the world sparked from the death of a black man that was brutally murdered," the woman wrote.
"I am a photographer in the wedding industry and I love my job and all of our couples. "However, comparing the restrictions on the wedding industry to Black Lives Matter protests and systemic racism is tone deaf, and NOT the same thing. I sincerely hope you remove all your comments where you make this comparison."
Other reiterated that by breaking the rules, it will risk further shutdowns in the industry.
"Sorry what? And which brides and grooms will want to go ahead with their 200/300/400 person wedding illegally while restrictions (are) still in place? To risk fines and shutting down their wedding lol unbelievable and unprofessional Navarra Venues," another person commented.
The venue responded explaining it was a "push for the industry".
"If over 10,000 people can protest for a good cause, people should be able to have a wedding for a good cause. Our CEO is more than happy to organise a time to meet and discuss the scenario at any of our venues."
RESTAURANTS ALSO VENT FRUSTRATION
In Surfers Paradise, the co-owner of Italian restaurant Costa D'Oro admitted seeing the large protests made her want to break the rules.
"My first reaction was, 'You have to be kidding,'" Nuccia Fusco told the Gold Coast Bulletin.
"If this (the protest) is allowed, we should be allowed the same thing and have as many people as we want in the restaurant."
Currently, restaurants are allowed to have 50 customers at a time. While she wants to push the patron limit this weekend, Ms Fusco said her husband talked her out of it, for now.
"I've been thinking well maybe the restaurant and all the other operators should do something, put up signs and have a protest day so we can have as many people as we want to," she said.
"This does make you want to rebel when you see all these other people getting away with it," she said. "Why can't we do the same thing?"
She said despite the hardships and financial impact of restrictions, her staff were excited to just be back at work, giving their best service with a smile and a skip in their step.
PROTESTERS URGED TO ISOLATE
The Black Lives Matter protests were the first major public gatherings of their kind since COVID-19 restrictions were introduced.
But despite giving the go-ahead, the timing of the demonstrations sparked outrage from officials, including senior government ministers.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has branded the protests as "reckless, irresponsible and self-indulgent".
AMA President Tony Bartone urged anyone who attended a rally to self-isolate for the next fortnight, watch for symptoms, and get tested if any emerge, saying the protests took place "in defiance of the public health warnings" and put the community at risk.
While only a handful of new virus cases have been reported in the last few days around Australia, deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly on Sunday warned health authorities to be on the alert.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC radio he hoped the rallies that clearly broke COVID-19 social distancing rules wouldn't lead to a new wave of infections.
Originally published as Fed up venues to ignore virus restrictions