The operator of an award-winning southeast Queensland night market has blasted the 'hypocrisy and double standards' of Annastacia Palaszczuk in allowing a full house for tomorrow night's State of Origin decider, while 'Gestapo-like' state health officers target his business.

A furious Ian Van der Woude, owner of the NightQuarter markets which opened last weekend on the Sunshine Coast after relocating from the Gold Coast, said his business had been deemed 'very high risk' by Queensland Health and heavy restrictions imposed.

NightQuarter operator Ian Van der Woude (with Michelle Christoe) has blasted the state government.
NightQuarter operator Ian Van der Woude (with Michelle Christoe) has blasted the state government.

An email he and partner Michelle Christoe received from a health official stated that NightQuarter was considered to be 'a very high risk environment' for the transmission of COVID-19 because of factors including large crowds and queuing, closeness of patrons, 'mixing between people who don't know each other' and 'loud volume speech, cheering and singing'.

The official opening of NightQuarter at Birtinya town centre. Photo Patrick Woods / Sunshine Coast Daily.
The official opening of NightQuarter at Birtinya town centre. Photo Patrick Woods / Sunshine Coast Daily.

The Queensland Health email also stated that the family market posed a risk because of 'intimate physical contact such as hugging, kissing, and sexual activities' and 'use of illicit drugs'.

It declared NightQuarter as effectively an indoor venue, slashing capacity from 3000 to 1584 along with strict social distancing and cleaning protocols.

Premier Palaszczuk announced last week that a full-capacity 52,000 fans would be allowed to cram into Suncorp Stadium for Origin III.

Mr Van der Woude said Ms Palaszczuk 'must have passed that under the Double Standards Act of 2020'.

"It's a bloody joke - hypocrisy and double standards at their absolute worst" he said.

"The Government is pummelling the s..t out of businesses like ours with their aggressive and predatory policing of COVID restrictions while allowing a full house at Suncorp Stadium. "They (Queensland Health officials) came in like the Gestapo or SS to our opening weekend, throwing their weight around.

Social distancing fairy Jacinta Joy spreads cheer at NightQuarter on Saturday night.
Social distancing fairy Jacinta Joy spreads cheer at NightQuarter on Saturday night.

"But State of Origin is apparently a COVID-free event. On Annastacia Palaszczuk's logic, the virus only comes out between 4pm and 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays at night markets.

"She has trained it not to go anywhere near Suncorp Stadium."

Mr Van der Woude, who was forced to relocate NightQuarter from Helensvale to Birtinya after being hit with a hefty rent rise, said it had been 'the worst year' of a lifetime in the hospitality/entertainment industry.

Ian Van der Woude says the ‘government is still kicking us’.
Ian Van der Woude says the ‘government is still kicking us’.

"We busted our guts to reopen the venue and we're battered and bleeding, but the Government is still kicking us," he said.

"When Annastacia Palaszczuk talks about jobs, she means public service jobs. If you're in small business and you make a profit, it's a sin that must be punished."

The NightQuarter was one of the Gold Coast's top attractions when it operated at Westfield Helensvale, drawing thousands each weekend to savour street food and soak up entertainment from some of Australia's biggest acts, including Amy Shark and The Cat Empire.

It took out the 2019 Queensland Music Award for best regional venue, as well as the 2016 Gold Coast Music Award for best live venue

But Mr Van der Woude and Ms Christoe abandoned the Gold Coast after being hit with a 100 per cent rent rise on the Helensvale site.

A public campaign to save the attraction - including a petition started by a local teenager that attracted 20,000 signatures - failed, and NightQuarter relocated to the Stockland Birtinya Shopping Centre.

Originally published as NightQuarter boss blasts 'hypocrite' Premier


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