‘RIDICULOUS’: Hotel shut down for patrons’ mistakes
COMPLYING with COVID-19 restrictions has been hard on all Queensland businesses, especially the hospitality industry.
A few incomplete customer sign in details and a venue can risk being shut down.
That's exactly what happened on October 10 to the iconic Burnett Hotel in Gayndah.
When large crowds of people flocked through the doors after a day at the races, hotel owner Nichole Scott thought they had everything under control.
"The inspectors came through around 8pm and found breaches that people hadn't signed in properly," Ms Scott said.
"There were maybe a dozen people that hadn't filled in either their full address or email and a couple of people failed to put phone numbers down."
Ms Scott said it was supposed to be a random inspection but the staff had a feeling the inspectors would show up.
"If they were going to find any breaches, it was going to be that night," she said.
The inspectors from the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) sat Ms Scott down to go over the breaches and completed a full liquor inspection as well.
"They told me I could close myself down or they'd have to make a phone call and I could be issued an on the spot fine," she said.
"They said the fine would be less because I'm a sole trader as opposed to a company and I think the minimum fine would be $1200."
Ms Scott chose to shut the hotel down herself and had to kick 125 people out that night.
"It was an easier option ... if they had to close me down they would have to come back and go through everything before I could reopen which could've been a week to two weeks, because of our location."
The Burnett Hotel reopened on October 13 after they made sure all the necessary boxes were ticked.
Ms Scott is frustrated at authorities who are targeting small businesses and said the restrictions are too tight on smaller towns like Gayndah.
"Everybody is basically from the same social group, it's not a big city where you've got hundreds of people that don't know each other on a dance floor," she said.
"125 people compared to 40,000 strangers in a stadium, is ridiculous."
Ms Scott is calling for the limitations on dance floors to be lifted in Queensland venues.
"People definitely need to be able to dance, they need to be able to let their hair down and just enjoy themselves when they come to a hotel," she said.
"Yes signing in is a good idea, but surely a phone number should be sufficient."
Queensland Hotel Association Chief Executive Bernie Hogan said the restrictions have allowed businesses to remain open this year.
"The contact tracing is the key element that gives health authorities the confidence that we can have a hospitality industry open," Mr Hogan said.
"We think Queensland is fast approaching a place where we've got to look at how we can change those restrictions."
Mr Hogan has his fingers crossed that the health authorities will soon permit one person in a 2 square metre space indoors, a step which other states have implemented successfully.
"We've done the right thing so far and that's got us in the position we're in, we'll just keep on keeping on," he said.
A spokesperson from the OLGR said all Queensland licensees who wish to operate their business at this time, must do so following the Chief Health Officer's latest restrictions.
"The industry plans and checklists set out restrictions and rules that have been put in place to minimise transmission of COVID-19 and keep their patrons, staff and wider community safe," the spokesperson said.
"As part of the multi-agency response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the OLGR will continue to monitor, educate and investigate breaches of restrictions within licensed venues."