A Golden Bay cafe, that says it’s now running as a private club, is refusing to check vaccine passes and so far WorkSafe has yet to take any enforcement action. It comes as the number of complaints about businesses possibly breaking Covid rules are rising.
Based in Collingwood it used to be called the MAD Cafe but since the country moved to the traffic light system it’s called the Love Boat Club. All are welcome to go inside- both vaccinated and unvaccinated.
The owner is an artist, known only as NgAngA . He argues that because it’s a club it doesn’t need to follow the Covid-19 Protection Frameworks which enforces things like vaccine passes and mask wearing. NgAngA also only employs unvaccinated staff.
“We are set up under natural law, God's law, indigenous law, natural law and common law and under that structure. Not man made government laws - it stands purely as it is.”
He says there’s nothing that will make him change his views: “It's a censorship and my sovereignty is what I will always maintain and protect. I won't sell myself to the system and my soul in the process”.
WorkSafe refused to be interview by 1News after multiple requests over the last three days. In a statement WorkSafe says it is “currently assessing whether the business is compliant” and will do an onsite assessment.
“WorkSafe has not given this business an official warning or similar, however we have provided education on several occasions about requirements under the Alert Levels.
"The business amended their practices when WorkSafe engaged with them in the past using our approach of 'educate first' including around display of QR codes and maintaining physical distancing meaning no enforcement actions were needed”.
The regulator recently fined the Lotus-Heart restaurant in Christchurch $20,000 for breaching rules around vaccine passes. This week there’s a sign on the businesses door saying “All Welcome” and claiming to be a members only club too.
But Andrew Geddis from the University of Otago says that approach won’t work.
“The order is pretty clear that it applies to any business that is serving food or drink and it doesn't matter if it's set up as a club or any other way”.
As for WorkSafe, Geddis says there’s nothing stopping them from going further.
“There's no legal reason for not taking enforcement action. It's a question of what WorkSafe believes will best achieve compliance and perhaps warnings and pointing out to people where they're falling short is the best way to do that”.
Since the start of December when the traffic light system kicked in WorkSafe has received 2104 complaints of businesses possibly breaking the rules, 456 of those were received in the last week alone. Only two fines have so far been handed out.
Vaccine expert Helen Petousis-Harris says compliance is all the more important in areas like Golden Bay where fewer than 80 per cent of people are fully vaccinated.
“So you've got a lot of people that remain susceptible, totally susceptible to the infection so if you're not also implementing those other measures as well you're going to see the infection spread very quickly”.