Retailers' compliance with vaccination rules has been patchy in Newcastle in the first week of reopening, prompting the Hunter's peak business body to warn traders against complacency.
The Newcastle Herald visited 10 newly reopened shops in the inner-city, Kotara homemaker centre and Westfield on Monday, but only three asked to see evidence of vaccination.
Most had signs at their entrances warning customers they had to be vaccinated, but seven did not follow through by asking to see vaccination passports.
A subsequent visit to Westfield Kotara on Tuesday showed 10 out of 10 shops asked for vaccination proof.
Shop owner Libby Helinski, who runs Pappa Sven homewares in Cooks Hill, said she would stay closed until October 25, when vaccination rates would be higher and customers had grown accustomed to the new rules.
"I've had a lot of customers contact me and thank me for not opening," she said.
"We were obviously quite nervous about whether it was the right or wrong thing to do business-wise."
Ms Helinski said she was "uncomfortable" about having to ask people about their vaccination status.
"I also want to ensure that people coming into my store are coming into a safe environment, and I wasn't sure we could do that at this point.
"We don't have the capacity to have someone at the door checking vaccine certificates and looking after customers at the same time."
The store will have to check customers' vaccination status until non-essential retail opens to the unvaccinated on December 1, but Ms Helinski said she wanted to see how other businesses managed the vaccination requirements before opening.
"I always wanted to wait until we reached that 80 per cent vaccination and until people got used to the fact that you're just not going to be able to go in if you're not vaccinated.
"I didn't want to be the person bearing that news."
Asked about shops which had opened but were not checking vaccine passports, Business Hunter chief executive Bob Hawes said they risked a $5000 fine if they could not show they had taken "reasonable" steps to prevent unvaccinated people from entering their premises.
"Breakdowns in communication may expose some businesses inadvertently to the reasonableness test and potentially failing it at the first hurdle," he said.
The "reasonable" steps under public health orders included having a system in place to check vaccination status and making sure staff were both vaccinated and "aware of the circumstances under which people can enter the premises".
"I've been surprised myself just bumping into people at a couple of places. There's a level of awareness but not readiness," Mr Hawes said.
"They were still waiting until the last minute to download stuff even though this has been in the media for weeks and weeks and weeks.
"Doing it [allowing entry to the unvaccinated] overtly is one thing, but to be busted for doing it inadvertently would be really distressing for the business owner."
Mr Hawes said businesses with small numbers of staff could argue that their employees were too occupied serving other customers to check the vaccination status of everyone entering.
"But that shouldn't be an excuse for a lack of interest or lack of knowledge or lack of enthusiasm for making sure they're doing the right thing," he said.
"That one's pretty clear: that you've got to have the facilities available for people to properly check in and be checked."
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