Businesses can be fined up to $55,000 for breaching COVID safety warnings and public health orders, with an additional $27,500 penalty for each day the offence occurs. They can also face $5000 on-the-spot fines, of which nine have been issued to NSW businesses during the pandemic.
In the popular food district along Newtown’s King St, some businesses have gone to great lengths to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines while others have been less diligent.
Nick Boonchuying, manager of eatery Thai Pothong Restaurant Newtown, said he was holding a weekly briefing to remind staff of COVID-safe practices.
Each waiter carries a hand sanitiser in their pocket, while kitchen staff all wear face masks and gloves. Signage at the front of the restaurant encourages hygiene practices, and there are stickers on the foyer floor guiding customers to keep their distance from each other as they wait for a table.
Where the restaurant would usually seat 250 people in its 439 square metre space, diners are capped at 100.
There is hand sanitiser on each table, the menu is accessed through a QR code or on laminated paper, and tablecloths have been replaced by disposable paper placemats.
No condiments or napkin holders are kept on tables. After each sitting staff wipe down tables, chairs and the laminated menu, while those taking payments at the counter are protected by a plastic shield.
“It’s an extra cost, yes, but it’s helping us and the public to stop the spread,” Mr Boonchuying said.
“I think in the long run customers will see what we’re doing and be confident when they come into the restaurant.”
Further down King Street, Exotik Latin Restaurant has placed a reserved sign and hand sanitiser on every second table to space out groups who are dining in. All surfaces including the front door are wiped down each time a group departs.
However other hospitality venues have not acted on the guidelines as closely, with some smaller venues failing to observe 1.5-metre distancing between seated patrons and condiments such as soy sauce, salt and pepper shakers shared between customers.
Among the nine businesses to receive on-the-spot fines since March are two massage parlours and a Japanese restaurant.
More than 1250 individuals have received a $1000 PIN for breaching a Public Health Order.
A police spokeswoman said police were proactively inspecting businesses, but that owners were “quick to fix” any issues raised and compliant at follow-up.
“Officers are continuing to follow up reports from Crime Stoppers too,” she said.
At 8am on Wednesday there had been more than 19,700 reports to Crime Stoppers since the start of the pandemic, with more than 600 reports in July alone.
Lucy Cormack is a crime reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.
Natassia is the education reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.