Balmain’s Unity Hall Hotel shut down over Covid safety breaches

The Unity Hall Hotel in Balmain. Photo: Unity Hall Hotel/Facebook.

The Unity Hall Hotel in Balmain has earned the dubious distinction of being Sydney’s first hotel to be shut down for breaching Covid-19 restrictions. 

The hotel – which bills itself as “a spiritual home to Sydney’s jazz and live music fans” – was ordered to shut down for a week, starting today, by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR).

The order came after the venue breached Covid regulations several times, including hosting two oversized birthday parties without adequate social distancing, and failing to follow its current COVIDSafe plan. 

Liquor & Gaming Director of Compliance, Dimitri Argeres, warned venues that under the Public Health Orders, inspectors can temporarily close venues for repeat offences.

“The venue was fined $5,000 after our inspection on 5 August, where inspectors identified an out of date COVID-19 Safety Plan, inadequate sign-in processes … and a lack of physical distancing between chairs and tables,” said Argeres in a media statement.

A penalty notice was issued for those offences on 7 August. 

NSW Police attended the pub the next day, on 8 August, in response to a complaint from a member of the public.

When they arrived, police observed a private function of 32 guests who were dancing, standing and mingling in close proximity to each other while consuming alcohol.

Police fined the venue $5,000 and referred the matter to OLGR for further action. 

OLGR then reviewed the venue’s CCTV, which confirmed breaches of physical distancing; 10-person limits on bookings; dancing; and staying seated while consuming alcohol.

“People in large groups who are known to each other are far more likely to mingle – including by dancing – and this increases the risk of transmission,” said Argeres. 

“Each person brings with them a history of interaction with others in the community which means the more people in a group, the more close contacts they are sharing across that group.

“To repeatedly not comply with the Public Health Orders poses a clear and significant risk to public health.”

In a post on the venue’s Facebook page, Unity Hall Hotel management apologised “unreservedly” for the breaches.

“We acknowledge that we did not understand every aspect of the changing regulations and we should have,” it said.