Wangi RSL adopts "locals only" approach as part of its fight against COVID-19

Wayne Izzard, secretary manager of Wangi RSL Club, in the main bar area.
Wayne Izzard, secretary manager of Wangi RSL Club, in the main bar area.

A Lake Macquarie club has further raised its COVID-19 barriers, permitting entry to only local residents.

Wangi RSL Club implemented on Thursday a "Lake Macquarie residents only" trial in an effort to keep at bay the impact of coronavirus.

"We're sticking to our local postcodes, basically all the '22s', which is pretty well all Lake Macquarie," explained the club's secretary manager Wayne Izzard.

"It's all about staff and customers being kept safe. And it's about keeping the locals coming in."

Club patron Mick Burt, from Arcadia Vale, praised the "Lake Macquarie residents only" approach, saying it brought greater certainty.

"A lot of people here are elderly," Mr Burt said. "And we want to keep this place going."

Wayne Izzard said that so far, "we've had only positive responses, no negatives" to the trial, which was being held for 14 days.

On Monday, the club turned away two people from the Coalfields. On Saturday night, about half a dozen people who had come from Sydney were refused entry.

"They actually understood, they just left," Mr Izzard said, adding the Sydney group had apparently been declined entry to another local club.

The sign at the door of Wangi RSL Club, with Lake Macquarie in the background.

The sign at the door of Wangi RSL Club, with Lake Macquarie in the background.

The CEO of the nearby Wangi District Workers' Club, Juston Baillie, said a group from the Campbelltown area, which was one of the Sydney "hotspots" for COVID-19, had been turned away.

But he said the Wangi Workers had not adopted a "locals only" approach.

"We review daily," Mr Baillie said of the club's screening policies. "And we take advice from the relevant authorities and ClubsNSW."

ClubsNSW has about 1100 member clubs. A spokesperson for the organisation said it had been regularly engaging with its member clubs to ensure the industry was operating under "the most robust" COVIDSafe plan. Some clubs had gone further "by restricting entry to members and excluding anyone from certain postcodes deemed to be a 'hotspot' area".

"Ultimately, it's up to individual clubs to determine what additional measures are in the best interest of their members, staff and local community," the spokesperson said.

Australian Hotels Association's Newcastle-Hunter president Rolly de With said he was not aware of any of the region's 160 members applying locals-only restrictions.

"At this stage, we'll look at what happens elsewhere and follow the guidelines of NSW Health and the state government," Mr de With said.

Wayne Izzard said the RSL club's more stringent screening could affect trade, "but it's all about keeping the business open".

The community club, which employs 12 staff, was shut for about nine weeks from late March, as the coronavirus-related restrictions were tightened.