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$10,000: The Aussie areas, venues paying the most Covid-19 fines

Police at anti-lockdown protests, September 11, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor)
Police at anti-lockdown protests, September 11, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor)

Venues based in Sydney’s northern suburbs, inner west and far west have been hit with the most Covid-19 fines in the Sydney region, new analysis has revealed.

Pubs, clubs and other licensed venues have also been dealt with the most fines for Covid-19 safety breaches among all inspected venues between 5 June and 8 November, making up 194 of a total 227 fines, SMH reported.

Across the state, 6,135 various venues from retail stores to hairdressers, gyms and beauty services have been inspected.

Colour-coded map of Sydney venues that have been dealt penalties for breaching Covid-19 regulations.
(Source: Source: NSW Fair Trading, Liquor & Gaming NSW, SafeWork NSW via SMH)

Starting from today, all NSW venues will have to make QR code sign-ins mandatory. Those without a digital contract tracing system may be hit with penalties.

The cost of being ‘Covid-safe’ doesn’t come cheap: according to a ClubsNSW spokesperson, the state’s 1,200 registered clubs are spending on average $54,000 to comply with regulations.

“This includes the cost of additional technology, temperature checks, the provision of hand sanitiser, frequent cleaning of high-touch areas and the introduction of COVID-safe marshals,” the spokesperson said.

But the NSW Government has to bear the responsibility of communicating the regulations to venues and businesses run by multicultural owners who don’t speak English as a first language, said Restaurant and Catering Australia CEO Wes Lambert.

"For these businesses, a $1,000 fine cuts a lot deeper compared to a larger venue,” said Lambert.

“For some it could represent an entire week's profits for a small business already doing it tough.”

Further inspections are expected to be carried out across the state.

Rule-breaking businesses hit with expensive fines

During the pandemic, Australian businesses and individuals have copped cash penalties in the thousands for failing or refusing to abide by Covid-19 rules.

Earlier this month, Leichhardt-based restaurant Odyssey Bar Restaurant was slapped with a $10,000 fine for allowing customers to mingle, hug and dance in what Liquor & Gaming NSW’s director of compliance Dimitri Argeres said was “a complete disregard for social distancing”.

Businesses were warned in mid-July by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, who had instructed his police force to get tough with businesses flouting restrictions.

“We need to ensure that we don't see additional spreads of the virus through bad behaviour,” Fuller said at the time.

“We've taken a pragmatic approach but a fair approach to businesses, understanding that everyone's under enormous pressure, but I think it is time that we start to issue tickets over using discretion.”

In late October, the Penrith Panthers also copped a $10,000 fine after footage revealed fans mingling, hugging and drinking while standing to the team’s loss to the Melbourne Storm the previous weekend.

The ANZ Stadium was fined $5,000 for letting patrons stand around in bar areas to watch the match, as were Novotel and the Locker Room, both based in the Sydney Olympic Park.

Excitement is no excuse for rule-breaking, said Argeres.

“Sporting events build up anticipation and create lots of excitement, we get that,” he said.

“But they also create exactly the types of situation we're trying to avoid – crowds that mingle and turn into one big group of close contacts.”

Australian states have raised more than $5.2 million from Covid-19 public health breach fines, the ABC revealed in August.

Individuals across the nation have also been fined for activities such as throwing and attending parties, leaving their designated areas to get 20 KFC meals, a Big Mac, buy groceries, get a haircut or street racing, all which were breaches of Covid-19 restrictions at the time.

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