The northern NSW police chief is urging licensees and patrons to do the right thing in pubs and clubs as COVID-19 restrictions relax, but he says his officers will not be doing head counts at venues to ensure people are playing by the rules.
From yesterday, licensed venues, cafes and restaurants were allowed to have a maximum of 50 people on site if they are complying with social distancing measures - with pubs and clubs now allowed to serve alcohol without requiring patrons to also buy food.
Police on Monday launched Operation Pariac across regional NSW - a month-long high-visibility operation aimed at enforcing COVID-19 restrictions as the lockdown is wound back and preventing a possible rise in alcohol-fuelled violence or anti-social behaviour.
Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell told reporters at Newcastle Police Station that specialist licensing police would be assisted by general duties officers throughout June as part of the operation.
"In the past, Pariac operations have been conducted to minimise alcohol-related assaults and anti-social behaviour, but on this occasion with COVID-19 restrictions being eased it's about working with our ... licensed operators and also our patrons in understanding how they can operate within licensed venues safely," he said.
"It's a new normal, if I can say that. It's about patrons understanding that when they enter into our licensed clubs or pubs they must be able to provide their personal details ... that's all about COVID tracing for health in the event of any outbreak.
"In regional NSW [handing out fines] has never been our number one focus. It's about education and ensuring people understand these new health orders.
"From a policing perspective, we won't be going into pubs to count numbers. Primarily, it will be about just making sure we communicate with the licensee or the management within the hotel or licensed venue to make sure they're complying and they have their COVID safety plan - also obviously to inspect their books to make sure people are complying with the health order in supplying their personal details."
The NSW government also relaxed travel restrictions to regional parts of the state from yesterday.
"There's a great opportunity for people to be moving about in regional NSW," Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said.
"It is a priority to strongly focus on our licensed venues and our entertainment precincts but also a strong focus [is] on our roads."
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