Businesses in regional Victoria now face a potential fine of close to $10,000 if they do not adequately check customers’ identification to ensure they are not from Melbourne.
However, Premier Daniel Andrews has said the government will not take a “heavy-handed approach” and businesses are simply required to “take reasonable steps” to ensure they’re only permitting customers from regional Victorian in their premises.
The new fines come after businesses in Kilmore took it upon themselves to close temporarily, after someone linked to the Chadstone shopping centre cluster in Melbourne travelled to the regional town and visited a local cafe while infectious.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Andrews said the government would strengthen the requirement for regional Victorian businesses to check the addresses of customers when taking bookings.
As of yesterday, businesses that “consciously” fail to check customers are not from metropolitan Melbourne are subject to fines of up to $9,913.
Checks can be completed by asking customers to show their drivers’ license or Keypass ID, said the Premier.
Andrews said businesses will not be fined in situations where they have done the right thing but have been misled by an individual who is deliberately ignoring the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
In those scenarios, the individual would face a fine of $1,652, as well as fines of up to $4,957 if they are from Melbourne and do not have a valid reason to be in regional Victoria.
Some regional business owners are concerned about the potential fines, which they say, if issued, could force them to shut their businesses.
In a press conference on Monday, Andrews elaborated further on the fines and said the emphasis will be on hospitality businesses, in particular, taking “reasonable steps”.
“I’ll take this opportunity to reassure every regional Victorian business. If they are taking those reasonable steps, then they’re doing what the law requires of them,” he said.
“There’s no heavy-handed approach here.
“I hope that none of these fines have to get issued. None of them at all, but it is appropriate.”
Andrews said the so-called “ring of steel” around Melbourne has played an important part in keeping the number of coronavirus cases low in regional Victoria, and business owners who are concerned about asking patrons for their IDs should explain they are following the government’s requirements.
“Instead of getting into a confrontation with a customer, then the staff member, the owner of the business, can very clearly say: ‘I’m required to ask you. I’m not choosing to do it. I’m not hassling you. I’m required to do it’,” he said.
“And it makes it very clear that the obligation sits with the patron, with the potential customer.
“Are they from Melbourne? And if they are, why are they trying to sit down in a cafe? The restrictions follow them.”
Andrews said he wanted to thank the “thousands, tens of thousands” of regional businesses that are doing the right thing and taking “every line in their COVIDSafe plan very, very seriously”.
“The vast, vast majority are working hard to make sure their venues are safe because they know if their venues aren’t safe, not only will they get a fine, but they will be closed down and they put at risk the settings and the opening up that’s occurred right across regional Victoria, over these recent weeks,” he said.