Children and families have been left disappointed after Santa Claus went missing from a scheduled photographic opportunity on Sunday.
Mr Claus was originally supposed to be taking photos all day on Sunday, and several bookings had been made for families to take photos with him.
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But about midday the Meadow Mews Plaza announced the white-bearded man would not be on site.
"Due to unforeseen circumstances Santa has had to make a quick dash back to the North Pole," the plaza's Facebook site read.
However, Felicia Geard, whose daughter was just about to have a photo with Mr Claus, said the reason for his omission was not quite so jolly.
"We went to approach Santa and said, 'if you can hold [our daughter] for the photo that would be great," she said.
"But then [two other staff members] kicked up a stink because of COVID regulations.
"They just kept saying 'rules are rules' and Santa was just sitting there.
"They were pretty much just ignoring Santa ... then the two workers went outside while Santa was standing there upset with us and when they came back in the photographer started packing up his camera.
"Then I heard a staff member whisper 'f--- off, Santa', thinking we wouldn't hear it, and that's when Santa walked back down to his chair, grabbed his things and stormed out, and I don't blame him and I feel sorry for him."
Ms Geard said she felt the interaction was particularly inappropriate because of the presence of several children.
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She said the incident had ruined the idea of getting photos with Santa, and that it was unlikely she would return to do so in the future.
The co-ordinator of the Meadow Mews Plaza was contacted for comment.
On the plaza's Facebook page, the centre management offered an explanation: "Unfortunately due to the current COVID situation we made the decision to ensure Santa and all our customers that visit Santa remain safe."
"Therefore we had informed both Santa and the photography staff to communicate no children are permitted to sit on Santa's knee for the safety of all."
They said both the Santa agency and photography company were external contractors.
Following the incident, the centre management released a statement confirming further meetings with Santa at Meadow Mews would be cancelled.
"We have made the very hard decision to end the Santa Season at Meadow Mews Plaza a little earlier than planned," they said.
They cited the reason for the cancellation as difficulties stemming from COVID-19 restrictions, particularly considering the plaza was tagged as a low risk exposure site from 1.35pm top 2.50pm on December 16.
"It is our duty of care to ensure the safety of our customers, families, children and in particular Santa himself," they said.
"I know Santa has loved having his photo taken with you all."
The photography company, MSP Tasmania, was contacted for comment.
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