Owner shut for COVID breach 'no vigilante'

A Sydney organic store was shut down after the owner failed to use a QR code system or wear a mask.
A Sydney organic store was shut down after the owner failed to use a QR code system or wear a mask.

The owner of a Sydney organic food store shut down for repeated breaches of coronavirus restrictions says he's not a "vigilante" or trying to push buttons.

Pete Melov's shop cannot open until August 3 after SafeWork NSW alleged serial breaches of the COVID public health orders.

NSW police have received numerous complaints in recent weeks about the Mascot store's compliance with public health orders, leading to several warnings, fines for not wearing face masks, multiple charges and Mr Melov spending hours in police custody.

But Mr Melov says he isn't "some kook" and he has good reason to not wear a face mask.

Injuries, surgeries and scar tissue on and around his ears means he can't apply any pressure on them, he says.

As for the lack of a QR code check-in system for Pete's Organic Market, he said he was confused by terms and conditions he was required to sign, as they also stated he wasn't required by law to provide certain information.

"I rang up everybody, nobody knew about the privacy policy," he said.

Mr Melov said he was quite prepared to implement the system - mandatory for all retail businesses - if someone answered his questions.

"I'm not a vigilante, I'm not against the community, I'd like things explained to me if I'm asked to sign it," he said.

He hoped people would stop dobbing on his business, which he says supports single mothers and others in the community struggling to get by under the city's strict lockdown.

"I give boxes of food away, I'm doing as much as I can to help the community," Mr Melov said.

"I'm not blaming the police, I have the greatest respect for the law, I follow the law."

Mr Melov's shopfront is adorned with a sign stating "the law serves us, the law doesn't control us, 99.97% recover naturally".

According to official statistics, one in 36 coronavirus cases recorded in Australia has resulted in death.

One in 12 active cases in Australia is being treated in hospital, with almost a third of those in intensive care.

SafeWork NSW said it was disappointing that some businesses were not understanding the seriousness of coronavirus.

"This fruit store ... (has shown) a blatant disregard for the safety of the community," compliance officer Dimitri Argeres said in a statement.

"It is clear that the ongoing operation of this business presents a significant risk to public health and (it) needs to be sent a strong message."

Mr Melov is due to face Downing Centre Local Court on August 12 to defend charges of breaching the public health order and not wearing a fitted face-covering in a retail business.

Australian Associated Press