The Imperial Hotel in Armidale and Auburn Hotel in western Sydney have both copped $5000 fines for infringements of social distancing rules.

Police attended the premises of the Armidale Hotel last Friday to conduct a COVID-19 Public Health Order check, and found that 30 patrons were occupying two small areas of the hotel, with no social distancing in place.

Patrons were instructed to vacate the immediate area, to which they complied, and the operators have since been spoken to by police regarding their COVID-19 safety plan. The hotel was issued with a $5000 fine on Monday for failing to comply with requirements of a Public Health Order – COVID-19.

New England Police District Commander, Superintendent Scott Tanner, said police will continue to work with businesses in relation to their COVID-19 safety plans and provide advice and guidance.

“Whilst it is the responsibility of licensed premises to ensure they’re complying with Public Health Orders, the public have to understand they’re putting those premises at risk and they may also be held liable,” Supt Tanner said.

“They’re putting the livelihoods of these businesses at risk, and if people don’t think it’s going to happen in our area they only have to look at other regional areas that are being impacted.”

In Sydney, the Auburn Hotel was also fined $5000 for being in contravention of the public health order, after patrons were found to be sitting too closely together in the pub’s gaming room. Upon further inspection, police also found the venue had not created a digital record of patrons.

Earlier this week NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned that patrons and venues not complying with social distancing orders would face tougher measures.

“I am still not seeing the level of compliance I want to see from patrons and also from the businesses themselves. But that will change on Friday. Any business that doesn’t do the right thing, will have the book thrown at them.”

AHA NSW director of liquor and policing, John Green, has called on venues to ensure they are implementing a COVID Safety plan, and also called on the public to respect and comply with social distancing requirements.

“It is vital licensed premises not only have a COVID Safety Plan, but that they also ensure measures are in place to ensure that plan is complied with.

“Whilst the regional hotel has acknowledged its role in what occurred, the patrons involved also need to understand their own actions have consequences for the venue – and the wider hospitality industry should we be shut down again for irresponsible actions.

“Social distancing measurers and limitations on patron numbers have been introduced in collaboration with the NSW Government and are there to keep patrons safe. AHA NSW has distributed information and provided multiple briefings to licensees to ensure they are aware of the rules and we expect them to comply.”

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