The Red Lion Hotel in Rozelle has been fined $10,000 for COVID safety breaches.

Multiple breaches were discovered by Liquor & Gaming NSW inspectors when they visited the venue after receiving a complaint about a birthday lunch that took place on 2 August. The booking was made for four groups of 10, with all seated and observing COVID rules when police attended the venue. However, the guests were reportedly mingling, moving between tables, hugging, shaking hands and standing while drinking at other times. These allegations were later confirmed through CCTV footage.

The double on-the-spot fine was issued on Friday 15 August for those breaches as well as others, including an out of date safety plan and inadequately space chairs and tables, which were observed on the day it was inspected.

Liquor & Gaming Director of Compliance, Dimitri Argeres, said the venue was skirting the rules by splitting the booking which was clearly for 40 people who knew each other and were not willing to adhere to physical distancing.

“It’s these sorts of social get togethers that can spark a cluster and, when it comes to events like birthday parties and weddings, we’ve seen how quickly people are tempted to forget the rules and throw caution to the wind,” Mr Argeres said.

“We expect hoteliers to set exemplary standards, particularly when it comes to managing the heightened risk presented by groups mingling.”

It’s the first fine for the Red Lion Hotel, but the 68th for hospitality businesses in the state, which have now copped a total of $304,000 in fines.

On 21 August The Lewisham Hotel was fined $5,000 for not having a valid COVID-19 Safety Plan and not spacing gaming machines at least 1.5 metres apart. On 13 August, The Garry Owen Hotel in Rozelle, Sydney, was also issued two fines totalling $10,000 by NSW Liquor & Gaming after it was caught breaching a range of COVID safety requirements.

Venues were warned about a looming crackdown in July, before the NSW Government imposed tougher restrictions from 12.01am on 24 July.

Mr Ageres said venues need to tighten up operations and take the rules seriously.

“Extra conditions were imposed on hospitality premises because they are higher risk spaces: people consume food and drink there — they stay longer and they touch more surfaces which means there is more opportunity for the virus to spread.”

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