Queensland businesses are waiting to see how patrons will react to a strict new vaccine mandate, while some establishments have left authorities perplexed by their willingness to ignore the new rules.
As of 5am on Friday, unvaccinated people in Queensland can be banned from entering pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes, and indoor entertainment venues such as nightclubs and cinemas.
Sports stadiums, theme parks, festivals, and state government-owned galleries, museums or libraries are also among the venues that are allowed to refuse entry if a patron is not double-dosed.
The tough new measures – announced last month – are tipped to trigger a spike in abuse from patrons during an already-hectic time of year for establishments, exacerbated by rolling staff shortages and an influx of visitors after the opening of borders.
National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb told The Courier Mail that it was important for Queensland businesses to have strategies to support staff in the event of aggressive or unruly behaviour, including a willingness to call in police.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath, meanwhile, expressed disbelief that many businesses had vowed to flaunt the new mandate at a time when Covid cases are surging thanks to an influx of visitors and returnees.
There were 22 new cases on Thursday, including 19 locally acquired cases, leading many to believe a reinstatement of mask mandates could be imminent.
“I have no doubt that the Queensland Police Service are aware of all those social media posts and businesses who are putting signs on their front door saying, ‘We are not going to comply’,” Ms D’Ath said.
“A business who is allowing unvaccinated people in or allowing unvaccinated workers to operate in their business … during a heavy Christmas period … (is) much more likely to have an outbreak, much more likely to have your staff go into quarantine.
“So I don’t know how that makes good business sense. Surely you want to reduce the risk so your business isn’t having to have staff in quarantine?”
Business owners who don’t take reasonable steps to comply with the mandates are at risk of heavy fines.
Some businesses – such as popular Gold Coast establishment Hot Shott – say they fear the mandate will have wider financial impacts on account of being forced to turn away unvaccinated customers.
“A lot of them are elderly customers or have health problems and don’t want to get vaccinated, and it breaks my heart that I have to turn around to these people and tell them I can’t serve them anymore,” cafe owner Jenna Finch told the Gold Coast Bulletin.