Six licensed venues in the region have been fined for breaching COVID-19 restrictions as Wollongong's top police boss warns the time for education is over.
Wollongong and Lake Illawarra police conducted high-visibility operations across the weekend to ensure venues including pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes, were following the new restrictions.
Figtree Hotel was fined $5000 after police observed a large number of patrons standing together and drinking in groups. Police will allege that the venue manager did not properly enforce the COVID-19 safety plan.
On Saturday, Lake Illawarra Police District officers conducted the licensing compliance checks throughout Gerringong, Shellharbour and Dapto.
The Spruce Moose on Addison Street, Shellharbour was issued a penalty notice and was also given a $1100 fine for operating as a bar and not a restaurant.
Nardi's Italian Restaurant and Cocktail Bar on Burra Place, Shellharbour and The Hill Bar and Kitchen on Fern Street, Gerringong, were also issued fines.
The alleged breaches included being overcrowded, not enforcing physical distancing, not having COVID safety marshals present, and breaching individual COVID safety plans.
Stoic Brewing on Rowlins Road, Gerringong received an official warning for failing to comply with directions under Public Health Act and was issued a $1000 fine for breaching licencing conditions under the Liquor Act.
Licensing police also assisted in the early closure of Dapto Hotel. Police were carrying out a usual license inspection as well as a COVID-safety check.
The licensee was spoken to after police noticed breaches in social distancing rules. The licensee then decided to close the venue rather than risk any more breaches.
When the pub was being closed, a fight broke out and two people were arrested for offensive conduct and failing to comply with a reasonable direction. The venue has since received a $5000 fine.
Wollongong Police District commander, Superintendent Evan Quarmby said police were targeting social distancing, groups of more than 10 people, ensuring venues had COVID-safe plans, marshalls and all other requirements under the Public Health Order.
"On the whole we are very happy with the way the licensees have responded to the restrictions that are in place for community safety," he said.
"However, unfortunately there have been several in Lake Illawarra that have breached and disobeyed those regulations and on Monday, we took action against a Wollongong licensee for an incident that occurred at the weekend."
Supt Evan Quarmby said police would continue to be out in force to ensure licenced premises and people in general were doing the right thing.
"The restrictions, regulations and rules have been made very clear," he said.
"Police have been very patient in educating and engaging licencees about those rules.
"Those days are gone.
"What we are about now is making sure our community stays safe and we will do that by being out in force making sure licencees are doing the right thing.
"For those who choose, and it is a choice, to disobey the regulations, they can expect to be dealt with by the police."
Supt Quarmby said the enforcement was about not becoming the next epicentre for the COVID-19 infection.
"Police, the government and the media have taken great pains to educate the public.
"The message is out there. People, patrons and licencees know what the restrictions are and the days of saying 'I don't know' are behind us.
"Police will always engage, and try and educate, but we are at the enforcement phase now to make sure we keep our community safe."
When contacted by the Mercury, Figtree Hotel management declined to comment until they had reviewed the incident.
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