Justin Garvie owner of the ROYAL on Ninety-Nine and George Cannon owner of The Commonwealth Hotel.
Justin Garvie owner of the ROYAL on Ninety-Nine and George Cannon owner of The Commonwealth Hotel.

Outback publicans furious over $7000 fine for ‘small mistake’

SOUTHWEST publicans are furious and labelling their $7000 fines a “complete joke” in the face of what they see as COVID-19 rule double-standards.

Police officers conducted a COVID-19 restrictions blitz across the southwest during the weekend, and issued infringement notices to The Commonwealth Hotel and Royal on Ninety-Nine in Roma, the Federal Hotel in Wallumbilla and the Injune Hotel for failing to comply with Public Health Directions.

Owner of Royal on Ninety-Nine, Justin Garvie, was slapped with a $6672 fine on Sunday and said he was furious at the double-standards with enforcing social distancing measures.

“Because one of our staff made a mistake and didn’t get someone’s details, we were slumped a $6700 fine,” Mr Garvie said.

“They don’t realise how much stress is on our staff to do the right thing.

“Business is tough as it is without all this crap.

“And what’s more infuriating is that I came home after getting the fine and saw all the protesters at Kangaroo Point.”

Owners of The Commonwealth Hotel, George and Ben Cannon echoed a similar sentiment that small business owners were being hurt by the Queensland Government’s double-standards.

“We assumed because there were 10,000 people at a protest and not single one of them was fined for social distancing, we could have a few people in the pub.”

Brother Ben Cannon confirmed the hotel was handed a $1300 infringement notice onJune 20 and have discussed with the Queensland Hotel Association to dispute the fine.

“It’s not viable to keep the doors open for 64 people – we just won’t be able to do it,” he said.

“It’s too costly to have all these staff and only have 32 people inside and no one wants to sit outside.”

Calls for clarity

Mr Garvie said he’s fed up hearing the premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tell Queenslanders to travel out to regional towns, and when they do, the hotel can’t then provide the service they would like to.

“Why is the premier telling Queenslanders to get out and travel, yet we can’t even feed these tourists,” he questioned.

“There are caravaners everywhere in town – what’s the point?

“If the premier doesn’t start relaxing these restrictions, we will have to review how we run the hotel.”

The premier announced today that from July 3, Queensland will be moving into “some aspects” of Stage 3.

However, owners of The Commonwealth Hotel, George and Ben Cannon said the restrictions were “unfair and inconsistent.”

“How can people walk freely in the aisles of supermarkets or can join thousands of protesters, but we’re told that patrons can’t come into the pub and walk in and out of the same door?” George said.

“It’s just absurd.

Why these outback pubs were fined

Police said the main areas of noncompliance related to excess of patrons in defined areas, bar service, noncompliance with seated consumption of alcohol, social distancing and signage.

“We thought we were following the right procedures, but it’s hard to keep up because rules are constantly changing,” George said.

“We have a good relationship with our local police officers – they’re fantastic, but the COVID police who issued the fine seem to have different rules.”

Similarly, Mr Garvie is frustrated because their infringement notice came from an incident at 9am on Sunday but they didn’t receive their fine until 5.30pm.

“Shouldn’t police have addressed the issue at 9am if they were so concerned about social distancing,” Mr Garvie questioned.

“Is it a learning curve or a money grab?”

Inspector Ray Vine from Roma Patrol Group said officers from Taskforce Sierra Linnet conducted the compliance operations across the southwest alongside staff from the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.

“The Taskforce attended all licenced venues in Roma and surrounding townships over the weekend to measure and monitor compliance with the Chief Health Officer directives and the COVID Safe industry plans,” he said.

“Officers from the Taskforce attended each venue several times over the course of the operation to provide education and insight to venue management to ensure the required level of compliance before issuing an infringement to one venue on 28 June for noncompliance.”

Rules continue to be enforced

Inspector Vine said he wanted to reinforce to all licenced venues that customers need to be seated, separated and served and they must comply with the requirements of the public health directive and relevant COVID safe plans or industry plans.

“Police from Roma will continue to monitor and ensure compliance especially in relation to the number of patrons, seated service, social distancing and the maintenance of registers of every customer,” he said.

“It is also important to understand that many of these restrictions are not unique to licensed venues and also apply to cafes and restaurants who provide seated dining.

“We have conducted high levels of engagement for some time now and these rules should not be a mystery to any business and we will continue to monitor compliance and take enforcement action if deemed necessary to ensure community safety and to keep Western Queensland COVID free.”


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