The NSW Government has reversed the COVID-19 health restrictions on sex on premises venues that many venue operators felt were discriminatory against the LGBTQI community.

From November 8, these venues will be allowed to reopen for all vaccinated adults.

Star Observer had last week reported about sex on premises venues in Sydney accusing the NSW Department of Health of discrimination for inconsistently applying COVID-19 health orders.

Sydney’s 357 Sauna welcomed the news, proclaiming, “We would like to proudly announce we are open after almost six months. Can’t wait to start our lives again.”

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“After many legal letters from 357 and other sex on premises venues, luckily for us Star Observer picked up the story and within days they were included in the new opening roadmap. We are able to open on Monday November 8. I hope nobody forgets that Gladys (Berejiklian) had us opening in October and the new premier changed that on his third day,” said Ty Dovans, manager and owner of 357 Sauna.

Reopening Had Been Pushed Back After Perrottet Became Premier

Dominic Perrottet.

Sex on premises venues were initially supposed to open up when NSW reached the 80% 16 + vaccination threshold. NSW reached this target on October 18. However, the reopening date for gay sex on premises venues was pushed back to December 1 soon after Dominic Perrottet became Premier of NSW.

A NSW Government spokesperson told Star Observer that the October 4, 80% reopening guideline for sex on premises venues was an error that was later corrected, and reiterated that businesses impacted by COVID are able to secure financial assistance via Service NSW.”

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The NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet did not respond to specific questions concerning the reason for this error or if any government assistance would be provided to sex on premises venues that were financially affected by this error.

Venues Allege Discrimination

Last week, in an open letter to Health Minister Brad Hazzard, Sydney Sauna had stated that, “it is extremely concerning that this one industry has been particularly singled out as having its reopening date pushed back rather than brought forward or even maintained.”

“The fact that the industry in question is one that exclusively services the LGBTQI+ community raises the uncomfortable question that the decision to delay the reopening of sex on premises venues has a discriminatory effect on this minority group.”

According to Sydney Sauna, by keeping sex on premises venues closed in the name of fighting Covid 19, the NSW Department of Health was incentivising sex arranged through “’hook-up apps’, in public ‘beats’, or at unregulated house sex parties.”

They argued that sex on premises venues are more Covid safe, as they are able to check vaccination status and can facilitate contact tracing, Sydney Sauna charged that, “the inconsistency could be mistaken as deliberately placing (a) marginalised community at greater risk.”

Noting the role of sex on premises venues in supporting COVID-19 public health goals, Professor Kane Race of the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney said that “licensed sex on premises venues provide a relatively regulated outlet for casual sex that makes contact-tracing and other prevention measures possible, in contrast to some of the other public and casual settings where men meet for sex”.

The venues will reopen on November 8 under a 1 person per 2 sqm rule.

 

 

 

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