Covid rule loophole allows bars and nightclubs to hold sit-down parties with no service
Some venues circumvent hospitality restrictions by describing their events as “private” in social media ads or by selling tickets to join a “guest list.”
According to the Unite Against Covid-19 website, hospitality venues must keep patrons seated and red-distanced away, with masks required except when outdoors, seated or while eating and drinking.
But for gatherings of up to 200 people, he advises “if you have exclusive use of a hospitality venue, you don’t need to follow the hospitality guidance”.
A social media search reveals dozens of publicly traded private events at bars and clubs across the country in recent weeks, ranging from raves to a ‘trance party’ and ‘birthday party’. a DJ.
A man who owns two venues in Auckland and Waikato told RNZ he was told the ‘how to get around’ normal restrictions by someone who had half a dozen parties during the last lockdown.
Its bars had hosted two private parties since January – organized by promoters – and a third planned for later this month.
“It seems a little weird that I can do this and there are no restrictions inside, people can dance and hang out…but with two rooms I was probably affected [by the restrictions] more than anyone else in the country, I think,” he said.
“I’m not ready to take the f*** and open up [parties] because that would be catastrophic. I risked a fine of $15,000. But for all intents and purposes, providing the venue is what I was able to do.”
He thought the third event would be a sale, explaining that customers were happy to make up their minds about the risk of catching Covid.
“Either people have had a dose of it, or they’re ready to take a dose of it…or there are diehards who don’t want it and aren’t coming out,” he said.
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the venues were simply following the rules provided by the government.
“Essentially, these companies haven’t written the rules. We rely on the health advice provided by the experts to tell us what’s okay and what’s not,” she said.
But not all of these nightlife venues were on board with the idea.
Tim Ward, owner of Wellington San Fran nightlife venues Abandoned Brewery and Club 121, said he had heard of a number of private parties taking place at bars and clubs in Courtney Place.
He thought they seemed “clearly prohibited” under red light rules and said he was not interested in following suit.
“The risk is that my clients will be angry that I am behaving irresponsibly as a business owner and start to view my business as no longer something they want to support. This also exposes my staff” , did he declare.
Ward said it’s somewhat understandable that other sites take that risk.
“Late bars, nightclubs and music venues – we’re all doing extremely poorly right now. They’ll be under intense pressure. And I understand why they’ll make bad decisions like this,” he said. declared.
However, he said the surge of private events should be exposed as suppressing any potential spread of Covid-19 means all venues will be able to open earlier.
No measures taken regarding private parties in nightclubs
In a statement, the agency in charge of Covid-19 compliance at the venues said it had not taken any action so far regarding private parties at nightclubs.
“WorkSafe has not taken enforcement action for the behaviors you describe, but will follow up as part of our ‘educate first’ approach if concerns are brought to our attention.”
RNZ also asked him to clarify what a private event was and if it was okay to advertise them.
“Under the Covid-19 safeguards framework at Red, when food and drink is served, customers must be seated and separated and face covering rules apply. This applies whether a venue host is operating “normally” or hosting an event,” he said.
RNZ has also contacted the Prime Minister and Cabinet Department for clarification, which referenced WorkSafe’s comment.
Dunedin bar sticks with Covid-19 vaccine passes
A popular Dunedin bar is sticking to Covid-19 vaccine passes even though they are no longer compulsory.
Woof bar owner Josh Thomas told Checkpoint he maintains a vax pass requirement for the safety of staff and patrons.
He said his customers wanted him to keep the passes and he expected business to improve once punters knew they were still needed.
Thomas backed the cautious approach to lifting Covid-19 restrictions – but would like to get rid of table service.
Most of his staff have had Covid-19 and his business has been hit hard by the Omicron wave, he said.
He prefers a cautious approach to lifting Covid-19 restrictions – but would have liked to see a shift to orange in the Covid-19 traffic light system – with vax passes still required.