A defiant small business owner tried to block police from entering his shop when they ordered him to close during NSW’s Covid lockdown.
Ryan Baker, 35, claimed police in Newcastle were ‘harassing’ him and he is allowed is to trade because it sells essential goods.
A confronting video from August 6 shows him opening the door of Spear & Fish Downunder to a man who then reveals himself to be an undercover cop.
Mr Baker tries to lock the door as two policemen push the door open, and come inside when he stops holding it closed.
The shop owner claimed was not charged with anything and earlier received official permission to stay open for click-and-collect sales.
‘I felt completely violated,’ Mr Baker told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It was disgusting, I was trying to home school my daughter and now she’s having nightmares and doesn’t feel safe to come into my shop.’
Once inside the officers display a police badge and confront Mr Baker, who rushes off-screen to grab his camera phone.
‘You’ve just forced yourself into a shop,’ Mr Baker tells the officers, who immediately point out they are recording the interaction.
‘So am I,’ Mr Baker replied.
In the video, one of the police officers denies forcing entry into the shop, on Hunter Street in Newcastle West, and said Mr Baker let them in.
‘I’m giving a direction, an official direction because this is not one of the shops that are allowed to be open during this restriction period, ok?’ the first officer tells him.
‘And I’m giving you a direction that the shop needs to close.’
The shop owner claimed was not charged with anything and earlier received official permission to stay open for click-and-collect sales
Mr Baker claimed his store was closed to the public. In the video he is shown unlocking the door to speak to the plain-clothed officer.
He also claimed to have sought clarification from Services NSW and was told he was allowed to continue trading as a click-and-collect business.
‘I’m not planning on closing, though they are trying to intimidate me into closing,’ he said.
Mr Baker claimed police – both plain-clothed and uniformed officers – visited his store ‘up to three times a day’ and ‘harassed’ him.
‘Since that video I’ve had daily harassment. Last Saturday they came three times, twice in plain clothes and once in uniform,’ he said.
Mr Baker posted to Facebook that he opened because ‘spearfishing/fishing is an essential service in the sense that it is essential for people to exercise and eat’.
‘It is also essential to stay open in order for myself to feed my family,’ he wrote.
Ryan Baker claimed police have ‘harassed’ him after visiting his Newcastle store, which he says is open for ‘click-and-collect’ business
Mr Baker said since police began visiting his store, he registered his business as ‘The Essential Items Shop’.
‘I adapted my business to sell fruit and vegetables, toilet paper and dog food,’ he said.
His Facebook page also shows soft drink, eggs, cordial, and cotton buds on the floor of his store.
‘I’m trying to adapt my business within the rules to make a living,’ he said.
‘My business is much safer than Coles or Woolworths for Covid. Wouldn’t it be better to have small businesses open than big business?
‘At least it’s easy to keep track of who comes in here.’
The video ends, after part of it was edited out, by showing the officers leaving the store and Mr Baker locking the door behind them, before his nine-year-old daughter emerges.
‘They just f**ken pushed into the shop. They hurt my arm too,’ Mr Baker told his daughter.
‘I know,’ the girl replied.
Mr Baker registered his business as an ‘essential items shop’ to try and further protect himself
NSW Covid rules state: ‘Most retail premises in the local government areas where the stay at home rules apply must close to the public.’
Business can open if they provide ‘essential products and services’ and provide a click-and-collect service that allows customers to buy items by phone or online.
Mr Baker’s store does provide this service.
Daily Mail Australia approached NSW Police for comment and received a statement which read:
NSW Police said Newcastle officer arrived at the store about 10.20am on August 6 after reports it was illegally trading during lockdown.
Officers advised him the business was not permitted to trade and he was issued a $1,000 fine.
Mr Baker disputes he was issued with a fine: ‘Not that I’m aware. I have ever been served a fine.’
Daily Mail Australia also approached Services NSW and NSW Health for comment.
Businesses that can stay open in NSW during Covid lockdown
Businesses providing essential products and services that can be open include:
- grocery stores including butchers, bakeries, fruit and vegetable, seafood other food or drink retailers that predominantly sell or display food or drinks
- kiosks and other small food and drink premises
- petrol stations
- banks and financial institutions
- hardware, building supplies
- landscaping material supplies
- agricultural and rural supplies
- auction houses for the auctioning of food supply, livestock, fibre or crops
- shops that, in the normal course of business, operate as or sell and display pet supplies newsagents office supplies
- chemists providing health, medical, maternity and baby supplies or liquor stores
- post offices
- garden centres and plant nurseries
- vehicle hire premises, not including the premises at which vehicles are sold
- shops that predominantly carry out repairs of mobile phones laundromats and drycleaners.
CLICK AND COLLECT AND HOME DELIVERY
Businesses may continue to operate if they provide goods and services to customers that are
- A ‘click and collect’ service can also be used by customers to return or exchange goods by prior arrangement either by phone or internet.
- Businesses may continue to operate if they provide goods and services to customers and follow the requirements for wearing of face masks check-in requirements (for example, using QR codes).
- Source: NSW Health