Solotel’s eastern suburbs pub The Golden Sheaf, has copped criticism after pictures were posted online of large crowds queuing outside of the venue last night.

Pre-COVID, the hotel hosted a student’s special on a Wednesday night, making it a popular mid-week venue for young adults. While the drinks special has not been offered since the hotel’s re-opening, many students still frequent the venue regularly.  Photos were taken last night of hundreds of people queuing to getting into the hotel, with no social distancing in place.

The police were called to help disperse the crowd, after many people reported the incident, worried it would cause a second outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney.

“Police liaised with the manager before assisting security with restricting the number of people in the line to comply with social distancing guidelines. The remainder were moved on from the area,” NSW Police said in a statement.

“Reports of The Golden Sheaf offering discount drinks promotions on Wednesday night are false. We have not offered social media drink promotions since the start of COVID,” stated Solotel CEO Justine Baker.

“We are practicing strict social distancing and COVID hygiene and safety procedures. We abide by NSW Health Guidelines throughout all of our venues, including the Golden Sheaf. All of our staff are inducted into the new COVID hygiene practices as a mandatory.”

Liquor & Gaming NSW assistant director of compliance operations, Dimitri Argeres, said inspectors have today contacted the hotel’s management to seek an explanation for the apparent breach of social distancing requirements.

“We are treating this matter extremely seriously. Venues should be aware that Liquor & Gaming NSW conducts both overt and covert inspections to check for compliance with COVID restrictions,” stated Argeres.

Immediate response

Baker said that the incident last night has made the group implement new procedures at The Sheaf effective immediately.

“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.”

AHA NSW Director of Liquor and Policing said the incident was a stark reminder to NSW hotels that social distancing measures are crucial in helping stop the spread of COVID-19, and commended Solotel on their swift response.

“All hotels have a responsibility to manage inside and also outside their hotel to ensure social distancing.

“It’s appropriate this hotel has taken immediate steps to prevent a repeat of these queues, including extra security outside to manage patrons.”

“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.”

Argeres added: “Under the NSW public health orders, hotels must have a COVID-safe plan which must be enforced at each premises and include measures to manage gatherings that may occur outside the venue.

“While our inspections have shown that the vast majority of venues are complying, those caught doing the wrong thing face significant penalties.”

Refusing or failing to comply with the public health orders without a reasonable excuse is an offence and could result in a fine of up to $11000 for individuals, six months’ imprisonment, or both. Further fines of $5500 apply for each day the offence continues.

Businesses face fines of up to $55,000 and up to a further $27,500 for each day the offence continues.

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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