‘Unconvincing and vague’ Perth party planner facing jail for hosting NYE pandemic party

A Perth event planner who threw a New Year’s Eve party during a COVID-19 lockout in 2021 has been found guilty of breaching the state’s pandemic laws.

WA Police broke up the ticketed event, held at The George in Perth’s CBD, around 11.30pm after responding to a noise complaint and finding around 300 people gathered inside hidden behind blacked out windows.

An image from police body cameras of the partygoers at The George. Credit:WA Police

COVID-19 restrictions in place at the time stipulated there could be no dancing, except at weddings, and hospitality providers could only offer seated service of food and drink.

The snap restrictions, which led to the mass cancellation of most Perth New Year’s Eve events, were in response to a Perth COVID-19 cluster sparked by an infected backpacker who had entered the state from Queensland weeks earlier.

Venue licensee Vinod Parihar, 42, pleaded guilty to breaching the state’s emergency laws in April 2022, however, his co-accused, Farooq Latief, 26, who the state alleged was the party planner, denied he was in charge of the event and went to trial in the Perth Magistrate’s Court in January.

His lawyer, Chris Townsend, argued CCTV showing Latief pouring drinks, stocking the bar and waving at customers seemingly to sit down when police arrived, did not mean he was the approved manager in charge of the event.

“There can only be one manager, ” he said, with Latief claiming he was a guest.

However, a magistrate, on Monday, found Farooq guilty of failing to comply with a direction, saying he found the venue host an “unconvincing and vague” witness.

He will be sentenced later this month. He faces up to 12 months in jail or a $50,000 fine.

On the night of the illegal party, police said at 10.05pm officers tried to get into the bar to investigate a noise complaint, but could not enter through the front beer garden because a gate was locked.

They instead entered through a side laneway and spoke with Parihar.

Police saw several patrons both seated and standing not wearing masks and gave a warning to remind Parihar of his duties.

Alcohol was cut off for about an hour in an attempt to regain control of the situation, resulting in some people leaving.

After a second noise complaint, liquor enforcement unit officers attended shortly after 11pm but were unable to get in through the front door and were forced to scale a wall.

At the time of the event, Police Commissioner Chris Dawson condemned the “selfish behaviour” and expressed his disappointment in the venue and the partygoers, after viewing footage of the crowd dancing without masks on.

“I am very disappointed … we will be alleging that the SafeWA QR codes had been taken down. They were found crumpled up behind the bar,” he said.

“We consider this incident to be a blatant disregard of the liquor licensing requirements… and we are in the middle of a pandemic, this is a state of emergency.”

Watch police body worn camera footage from the party below:

  • with Louise Rennie

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