Publican to fight $6700 COVID fine from Toowoomba council
In June, 14 Queensland Police Service, Toowoomba Regional Council, Queensland Heath and Queensland Liquor Licensing safety officers inspected the Downs Hotel.
While they flagged a few COVID-19 safety compliance issues, it was the council inspectors' return visit on September 18 that left owner Simon Thompson seeing red.
They took issue with two bistro dining chairs that were placed back-to-back at different tables but were less than 1.5 metres apart.
The public bar also had three tables placed less than 1.5 metres apart.
"We had a pretty heated argument, and I asked if I moved the tables would that satisfy the requirements," Mr Thompson said.
"I did that then emailed and phoned the inspector, and she thanked me and added it to my file."
"But she turned up the following Thursday with a $6672 fine."
Mr Thompson said he understood the need for social distancing compliance and has adhered to the occupancy limits, made every visitor sign in and has sanitiser pump bottles throughout the venue.
But he is angry that the council did not work with him, labelling its actions as arbitrary.
"They came in June and had no issues with the tables, but I was fined in September, even though nothing had changed," he said.
The fine came as Mr Thompson worked to get back on his feet after the shutdown.
"We lost three months of income," he said.
"It was so abrasive for something that is meant to be a joint effort.
"We do our part; the customers do their part and the council should be there to work with us."
He asked for a review of the fine but it was upheld, leaving a complaint to the Queensland Ombudsman as his last avenue for redress.
In statement, TRC said its officers inspected the Downs Hotel three times.
"Warnings and advice were provided to the owner for observed breaches of the Queensland Chief Health Officer's directions, including how to comply with the relevant restrictions," it said.
The Downs Hotel is the third Toowoomba business to be fined by the TRC for noncompliance.
Originally published as Publican to fight $6700 COVID fine from Toowoomba council