The Western Australian Government has announced changes to public health and social measures across the state, including the locations in which proof of vaccination must be shown.
Customers no longer need to prove their vaccination status to enter bottle shops anywhere in WA. The policy was originally applied to bottle shops from January 31 of this year and was removed with immediate effect last Friday 18 February, as the state achieved more than 95 per cent of the population being double dose vaccinated.
This change was announced alongside an updated list of measures in response to the latest health advice and the developing COVID-19 situation in WA, including mandatory mask-wearing in all indoor retail spaces state-wide (previously this mandate only applied to certain regions).
The retail industry has welcomed the proof of vaccination policy change, noting the negative impacts on store owners and staff while it was in place. In recent weeks there have been multiple reports of liquor store staff being the target of verbal or physical abuse from customers who did not agree with the policy.
For example, the Liquor Stores Association of WA (LSA WA), recorded an overwhelming increase in the number of these incidents reported by its members, particularly related to the safety of staff who were targeted by ‘unruly and vexatious’ customers. LSA WA compiled feedback around these incidents into a 14 page report for the WA Premier, which highlighted issues such as ongoing mental health issues of staff, with an alarming increase in anxiety experienced by staff; verbal and physical attacks on staff, and/or threats of legal action; more requests by staff to take leave or work shorter shifts; up to 50 customers a day being turned away by insufficient ID; and slow police response time to these incidents.
LSA WA Chief Executive, Peter Peck, said: “This is a cross our members have been bearing, through no fault of their own, and it’s caused a great deal of misery and mental harm to them, their staff and their families.
“It was always untenable for a small part of the retail sector like our independent stores be tasked with policing a state government mandate. I applaud the Premier and his team who have made the right call. We highlighted the issues our members raised, and the government has, to its credit, listened.”
Retail Drinks Australia has also commended the Government for changing the policy. CEO Michael Waters said the organisation was grateful to have liquor stores removed from the list of venues where customers needed to provide proof of vaccination, and said it was an example of why its important for key industry stakeholders to have a voice in policy discussions.
“We were pleased to work alongside key industry stakeholders, including a number of Retail Drinks members as well the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), and would like to thank the WA Government for listening to our views,” Waters said.
“This decision is a relief for store-owners and staff members who had been experiencing appalling physical and verbal abuse from customers since the mandate came into effect on 31 January.
“We look forward to continuing our collaborative and proactive work with the McGowan Government to ensure that positive policy outcomes are reached on behalf of the state’s liquor retail sector.”