14 September 2020

Civic venue closed on weekend denies breaching COVID-19 regulations

| Michael Weaver
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COVID-19 check by ACT Policing

An officer from ACT Policing explains the regulations during a patrol of a liquor store last week. Photo: ACT Policing.

A licensed venue in Civic has voluntarily closed its doors after having four people above the agreed capacity limit led to an altercation involving a security guard and patrons in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Police attended the venue at about 12:30 am on Sunday (13 September) in response to a report that the basement-level venue in Alinga Street appeared to be in breach of agreed patron limits under COVID-19 health directions.

Officers discovered 32 people in the bar, which has a maximum limit of 28 patrons.

The owner of the venue, who asked not to be named, told Region Media he denied there was a breach and voluntarily closed the venue after an altercation between patrons and a security guard, who has since been dismissed.

“I closed the venue early because I had to relieve the security guard of his post and had no one to mitigate entry and apply appropriate crowd controls,” the owner said.

“We are looking into the footage to assess the alleged COVID breach, but we remain in a position to deny that we are in breach.

“We are a responsible Canberra small business. We acknowledge our responsibility to the community in a post-COVID world. We have made robust changes to our structure to ensure better compliance with public health directions.”

However, an ACT Policing statement said police forced the closure of a bar in Civic for breaching the Liquor Act 2010.

“Police also found there was no security on-site and emergency exits were locked and as the venue was in a basement, this led ACT Policing to serve a 24-hour emergency closure of the venue,” an ACT Policing spokesperson said.

The closure comes as the number of people allowed in a venue will be lifted by ACT Health on Friday (18 September).

Canberra’s chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the minor lifting of restrictions on Friday would be subject to a successful COVID Safe Check Point assessment this Thursday.

“This change is a small step forward and will enable smaller-sized venues, facilities and businesses to return to their pre-COVID occupancy number, with a maximum of 25 people across the whole venue, excluding staff,” Dr Coleman said.

“Venues must still abide by their standard occupancy loading and the regulatory conditions of the venue. A business that wants to have more than 25 people in their venue must apply the ‘one person per four square metres of usable space’ rule.”

Under the new regulations, the maximum number of patrons permitted is 100 for each indoor space and each outdoor space.

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“This change may be small, but for some businesses and members of the community, it will make a big difference in moving towards a COVID-safe business as usual,” Dr Coleman said.

“We recognise that this may mean that customers in a small business may not be able to maintain physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres, however, businesses should strive to separate groups or tables as far apart as practical within the usable space.

“It is also important to continue the collection of contact details of visitors and patrons to ensure we are in a particularly strong position to contact trace if need be.

“For this reason, we are aiming to strike a balance where we can continue to move forward and support businesses in a staged and cautious manner. This gives us the ability to respond quickly from a public health perspective, if necessary.”

ACT Policing, Access Canberra and ACT Health continued to conduct COVID-19 compliance patrols over the weekend, working with businesses to help them meet requirements.

Inspector Rachel Hutka from ACT Policing’s COVID-19 Taskforce said most businesses were keen to work with authorities to do the right thing.

“We have generally found businesses keen to cooperate with us if there are any concerns regarding compliance with health directions,” Inspector Hutka said.

“Those businesses working hard to do the right thing deserve our thanks because this is a difficult time for everyone.”

Inspector Hutka encouraged businesses and patrons to use the new Check In CBR app.

In the past seven days, ACT Policing conducted 774 quarantine checks, bringing the total number of checks to more than 11,000.

The public can make a report of non-compliance via the COVID-19 Helpline on 6207 7244 (8:00 am – 8:00 pm, seven days a week) or online.

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