Which venues are following COVID rules — and which are not
NSW pubs and clubs are being inconsistent with enforcing COVID-safe rules ahead of another crackdown on venues, a Daily Telegraph investigation can reveal.
Under the current Public Health Order, venues must complete a specially tailored Covid Safety Plan which meets NSW government criteria to prevent an outbreak of the virus, including patron limits, enforcing contact tracing, spacing out tables, scrapping communal condiments and self-serve areas, having hand sanitiser available at all times and refusing entry to staff and punters exhibiting symptoms.
The Daily Telegraph visited almost 40 venues across NSW in Sydney during Monday and Tuesday and found while some pubs and clubs followed every rule stringently, others weren't as thorough in ensuring the mandatory safety protocols were followed.
The King's Park Tavern in King's Park, Wests New Lambton in Newcastle, O'Donoghue's Irish Pub in Emu Plains and the Edinburgh Castle Hotel in the CBD were among venues which passed the test with flying colours, with spotless interiors, social distancing enforcement and lengthy table spacing as well as hand sanitiser and staff enforcing patrons signed in properly with their contact details for tracing.
Bankstown RSL also appeared clean and following COVID-safe closely, with distanced tables and staff taking every patron's personal details including their phone number at the entrance and insisting on hand sanitiser before entry.
But in the eastern suburbs the Royal Oak in Double Bay had staff enforcing sign-in, hand sanitiser available, thorough cleaning measures and no communal condiments or cutlery, yet table spacing failed to meet guidelines with patrons sitting back to back closer than 1.5 metres apart.
The Dog Hotel in Randwick had an empty bottle of hand sanitiser at the front entry sign-in point and five guests were seen crowding around a table without adhering to the one person per four square-metre rule.
The Bondi Beach Public Bar did have sign in measures at the door, enforced contact tracing and proper table spacing but the venue's hand hygiene facilities including sinks and sanitiser were difficult to find for patrons. BBPB general manager Dan Clayton said the bar's sinks and sanitisers were placed in "prominent locations" and staff are "working hard each day" to keep the venue safe.
University of New South Wales health emergency and infection control expert Professor Marylouise McLaw said the varying enforcement of regulations from venue to venue was "disappointing" and could undo the hard work of authorities and the community in containing COVID-19.
"It's of great concern … we're not completely out of the woods, and pubs and clubs are breeding grounds for outbreaks," Prof McLaw said.
"Venue staff need to be hyper vigilant with regulations in order to stay open and keep people safe. All the good work that's been achieved by NSW in the past few weeks could easily be undone by another outbreak."
It comes as NSW prepares to weather a new wave of restrictions on pubs and clubs from midnight on Thursday.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Tuesday pubs and hotels will have a maximum capacity of 300 patrons, with venues holding more than 250 patrons needing a specialist marshal to ensure COVID-safe guidelines and social distancing is taking place. Smaller venues will require a marshal during peak hours, and individual guest registration will become compulsory at all venues.
The Rose and Crown in Parramatta were across all compulsory measures, with staff enforcing patron sign-in and hand sanitiser use, strict social distancing measures and appropriate table spacing.
South of Sydney the Mariners Hotel in Batemans Bay had hand sanitiser on every countertop, widely spaced small tables, staff enforcing punter sign-in and individual cutlery sets wrapped up for diners to collect.
While punters at Marlow Hotel Group-owned venue Intersection Tavern in Ramsgate were signed in and sanitised at the door while social distanced standing and seating was inside.
Managing director Jason Marlow said procedures differed depending on the size and capacity of each of the group's 11 venues and said licensees and staff at the Royal Hotel Carlton would be reminded of "the importance of strictly adhering to" COVID-regulations after patrons at the Royal Hotel Carlton enjoyed safe table spacing but shook hands and signed in at the bar rather than at the door.
Police are conducting regular inspections of pubs and clubs to ensure Covid Safety Plans are being followed, with businesses vulnerable to a $5000 fine if they are found in breach of the rules.
NSW Police Acting Assistant Commissioner and Operation Corona Virus Commander Tony Cook reminded businesses to follow requirements or face the consequences.
"Let me be clear, we are taking all breaches of ministerial directions extremely seriously. Those who disregard the safety and health of the people of NSW will be held to account," Acting Assistant Commissioner Cooke said.
Other venues flouting the NSW government's Covid Safety Plan included the Castle Hill Tavern which had hand sanitiser at the front entry but a sign in form inside the bar, meaning guests didn't have to sign to enter the premises.
A Castle Hill Tavern spokesman said the venue would "strengthen" its regulations by limiting entry points and appointing a COVID marshall to ensure "we capture all patrons' details on entry".
Coach and Horses Hotel in Randwick had tables spaced apart but no signage indicating guests should sit distantly, with ten people spotted sitting shoulder to shoulder on Monday. The pub also had limited hand sanitiser and no sign-in process at the entry, asking guests to do so at the bar but with no staff ensuring all patrons were complying. A statement from the pub said it was "in the process" of upgrading its Covid Safety Plan to meet the new regulations which kick on at midnight on Thursday.
Australian Hotels Association Director of Liquor and Gaming John Green said it was more important than ever all venues stuck to the regulations.
"It is important that every licensed premises not only has a Covid Safety Plan, but they also follow that plan," Mr Green said.
"We are at a critical stage of the re-emergence of this virus in NSW, so it is vital everyone - licensees, staff and patrons take this seriously."
All venues involved in The Daily Telegraph's investigation were contacted for comment.
Originally published as Which venues are following COVID rules - and which are not