Publican fined $10,000 for COVID breaches vows to fight the penalty

A distraught publican has conceded he may have to close the doors of his country pub after he was fined $10,000 for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

Luke Moon, 47, broke down on Friday morning when police walked into The Port of Bourke Hotel and issued him with two infringement notices. 

Bourke is almost 800km north-west of Sydney and has recorded zero coronavirus cases. 

Police allege staff at Mr Moon’s venue failed to enforce social distancing after punters congregated at the bar and did not intervene when a patron moved between two tables.  

‘I couldn’t believe it, if I end up having to pay the fines that will be it… The pub will shut down,’ Mr Moon told Daily Mail Australia on Friday evening.

Port of Bourke publican Luke Moon (pictured left) may have to close his pub after he was issued two fines for breaching COVID restrictions

Port of Bourke publican Luke Moon (pictured left) may have to close his pub after he was issued two fines for breaching COVID restrictions

The Port Of Bourke Hotel (pictured) is a favourite among locals and visitors to Bourke, in northern New South Wales

The Port Of Bourke Hotel (pictured) is a favourite among locals and visitors to Bourke, in northern New South Wales 

‘Coughing up $10,000… I can’t do that, it will break me… I will have to let staff go and sponsoring of local sporting teams will also be finished.’

Mr Moon said he would ‘most definitely’ fight the infringement.

He has contacted NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and media personality Alan Jones in a desperate attempt to voice his frustrations. 

The two COVID-19 infringement notices – for Friday, October 9 and Saturday, October 10 – were issued following a police operation in the town.

NSW Police said: ‘Officers from Central North Police District attended the hotel (Friday 16 October 2020), and issued the hotel licensee with two infringement notices under the Public Health Act.’

The two $5,000 fines issued to Mr Moon were for ‘fail to comply with noticed direction in relation to Section 7/8/9 – COVID-19 – Corporation’. 

Mr Moon claimed his venue was hit with the fines after an undercover police officer attended the venue. 

‘The local police have been patting me on the back for how I’ve run the place during COVID…then some copper (from Dubbo) comes in undercover and changes everything,’ he said. 

Mr Moon told Daily Mail Australia he 'couldn't believe it' when police officers arrived at his venue on Friday

 Mr Moon told Daily Mail Australia he ‘couldn’t believe it’ when police officers arrived at his venue on Friday

The hotel promotes itself for having cold beer, value for money meals, a kids playground and even accommodation

The hotel promotes itself for having cold beer, value for money meals, a kids playground and even accommodation

A fuming Mr Moon felt the fines were very unreasonable. 

‘Common sense needs to be applied here surely,’ he said.

‘To my knowledge, Bourke hasn’t recorded a single COVID case, so that’s telling you something.’

Mr Moon has run the Port of Bourke Hotel on Mitchell St in Bourke after buying it three and a half years ago. 

Earlier this year, his country watering hole became a crime scene when he was glassed by a violent patron.

‘In recent years we also had the drought, so times have been tough… this pub is a meeting place for many of the locals.. closing it down will hurt everyone socially,’ Mr Moon said.

‘I’m off to see a solicitor on Monday, you would hope this can be resolved.’  

Pub owner Luke Moon said he will be 'shattered' if he has to close The Port of Bourke Hotel following recent COVID breaches

Pub owner Luke Moon said he will be ‘shattered’ if he has to close The Port of Bourke Hotel following recent COVID breaches

Central North Police District command, Superintendent Andrew Hurst warned that officers would continue to ensure the Public Health Orders were being met.

‘It is the responsibility of everyone in this state to follow the rules and keep our community safe from the COVID virus,’ Supt Hurst said in a statement.

‘My officers will continue to monitor compliance within the command; anyone who needs information about the current Public Health Orders should visit the NSW Health website.’ 

Pubs across NSW have been on edge ever since the government imposed a number of compliance measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Revellers must provide their names and contact details when entering a venue and all premises must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. 

Inside a venue, a dedicated COVID safe hygiene marshall oversees social distancing.

Pubgoers must stay seated – except for when ordering at a bar – and they are not allowed to move between tables.   

Data obtained from NSW Health also confirmed Bourke is yet to record any cases of COVID-19.

Key rules for NSW pubs to follow:

*Hospitality venues are encouraged to use electronic entry recording for record keeping

*All premises must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan

* One person per 4 square metres of space in indoor areas, plus one person per 2 square metres of space in outdoor areas

*Capping of 300 people in a venue at any one time 

*The number of people per booking or table cannot exceed 10 

*Compulsory COVID-safe registration

*A dedicated COVID safe hygiene marshall to oversee social distancing, cleaning and hygiene at venue 

*Ensure all patrons provide their name and contact details accurately 

Source: NSW Health  

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk