The Garry Owen Hotel in Rozelle, Sydney, has been issued two fines totalling $10,000 by NSW Liquor & Gaming after it was caught breaching COVID safety requirements.

Recording a number of breaches, the regulator’s inspectors said it was ‘the worst pub seen so far’.

According to the inspectors, there were only three staff on the floor at the time they arrived, despite the venue being packed with guests.

“The list of breaches grew from there,” said Liquor & Gaming NSW Director of Compliance Dimitri Argeres. “In fact the venue was essentially being operated as though there were no restrictions in place.”

The venue wasn’t registered as COVID safe; didn’t have an up-to-date COVID-19 Safety Plan; and wasn’t enforcing sign in procedures or physical distancing. Inspectors also noted a lack of hygiene processes and observed patrons standing and mingling while drinking.

“The venue was letting down its workers, the community, and all the other businesses trying to do the right thing to keep their doors open,” said Argeres. “Hospitality venues cannot disregard these requirements. If we visit again and observe further breaches, at this premises or any others that have already been fined, they may be temporarily shut down.

“We’ve seen how easily and quickly COVID transmission occurs — there are no second chances with this virus.

“Now is not the time to be facilitating mingling among strangers, let alone allowing patrons to stand on your pub balcony sculling beers. If you want to continue operating, if you care about the health of your community, then take responsibility for safety in your space.”

The Garry Owen Hotel is one of eight venues to receive fines this week. The other seven venues were Riverview Hotel in Balmain; Dry Dock Hotel, Balmain; Padstow Park Hotel, Padstow; Padstow Bowling Club, Padstow; Marrickville Ritz, Marrickville; Royal Hotel, Randwick; and Yai Thai, Gosford.

Breaches were related to not having a COVID-19 Safety Plan; non-compliant record keeping; improper hygiene; and a lack of appropriate physical distancing, including in gaming rooms.

The NSW Department of Customer Services, which includes the Liquor & Gaming NSW, SafeWork NSW and NSW Fair Trading agencies, has now issued a total of 29 fines to 27 venues for COVID safety breaches. The dollar amount of all fines issued thus far is $152,500. Inspectors from each agency conduct uniformed and undercover inspections of licensed venues. Venues face on the spot fines or temporary closure.

The fines come as NSW continues to see an uptick in COVID-cases, with some clusters linked to restaurants and pubs.

Venues were warned about a looming crackdown in July, before imposing tougher restrictions from 12.01am on 24 July.

On 12 August, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state remains on high alert, adding that compliance with government advice is critical. “There has been in the number of businesses complying,” said Premier Berejiklian. “However, I want to see a great uptake on all those categories and if we don’t see a great uptake in the next little while, we will consider further measures in which we can increase that uptake.”

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