It appears everything ran smoothly on the first day of mandatory vaccine passports across Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
Flori Chaykowski, executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce received no complaints as of Monday afternoon as non-essential businesses across the province started checking for proof of vaccination from clients and customers.
However, Chaykowski was concerned about support for businesses from the provincial government to help deal with clients that don’t agree with the new provincial health order. She said she could not find the information call line that the province promised would be available in a guide that was circulated to businesses on Sept. 7.
As of Sept. 13, proof of vaccination is required to enter certain indoor social and recreational events across B.C. Events include: sporting events; concerts, theatre, dance, and symphony events; licensed restaurants and cafes and those that offer both indoor and outdoor table service; pubs, bars, and lounges both indoors and outdoors; night clubs, casinos, and movie theatres; fitness centres, gyms, and adult sports; indoor group exercise activities; any organized event indoors with 50 or more people like wedding receptions, parties, conferences, and workshops; and discretionary organized indoor group recreational classes and activities.
Where are the supports for those businesses, she asked.
Chaykowski would like to see the province offer training and support channels for businesses that can provide suggested or recommended language or de-escalation techniques that could be used when managing any potential confrontation with a customer or client. As well, she said, any mental health needs that may develop as a result.
Employers, added Chaykowski, need clear guidance, and require clarity of government processes and protocols on how the province will ensure compliance with the vaccine passport system – as well as any fines or penalties that result from the actions from members of the public that could not be borne by businesses.
To check a vaccine card, employers had to download a B.C. Vaccine Card Verifier app on a mobile device to allow them to scan the QR code on the customer’s mobile device. The vaccination verification must be validated with government-issued photo identification.
Currently patrons are allowed entry to an establishment or event with one dose of vaccine. After Oct. 24, only those with both shots will be allowed entry.
Chaykowski is concerned enforcement has fallen onto the laps of business owners.
“We don’t feel it’s right that this becomes a business responsibility,” said Chaykowski, adding that employees who may have confrontations need help.
“It could affect mental health if there’s confrontation with customers,” said Chaykowski.
And, as with the mask mandate, businesses could suffer from staffing shortages because their employees do not want to be on the front lines telling those who have not been vaccinated, they can’t enter the establishment.
In the vaccine passport business guide the provincial government advises restaurant staff to be kind, calm, and courteous with confrontational non-vaccinated guests, and to call 911 if they feel threatened.
Mike Mulcahy, owner and operator of Big Feast Bistro on 227 Street in Maple Ridge said it was like a normal day at his restaurant. He uploaded the BC Vaccine Card Verifier app onto a single tablet at the restaurant and said neither his employees nor patrons had issues with the passports.
However, another restaurant opted to shift their business to take-out and delivery only – to bypass the vaccine passport order altogether.
Yvan Charette, owner of both the Haney Public House in Maple Ridge and The Jolly Coachman in Pitt Meadows, said his staff didn’t face any issues on Monday. However, what he did face was a lack of business.
He spent time talking with clients who did not want to show their passport, and tried to inform them about what the goverment mandate means for his restaurant.
Charette said his staff were handing out information sheets to patrons explaining the new rules that he wrote up and printed himself.
He was annoyed that he only received an email from the province a day before passports became mandatory, to explain what the process was going to look like.
“That gives you little time to prepare your staff and work with them to have them understand. As owners, we’re not interested in being the COVID police and we don’t want our staff to take on that job. And that’s what’s being asked of them,” he said.
Charette says he lost about 70 per cent of his business on Monday.
“I was dead,” he said.
The issues that he dealt with on the first day he blamed on lack of government communication.
Charette said the vaccine passport is not something he is wanting to do – a statement, he admitted, that will either make people mad or happy.
“You can’t win in this situation,” he added.
Fines can be issued to both individuals and business owners under the Gatherings and Events and Food and Liquor Serving Premises orders. The fine for individuals is $230 or $575 and for event organizers or owners/operators the fine is $2,300. Employees cannot be fined for failing to check someone’s proof of vaccination. Tickets will be issued by police officers, community safety units, liquor and cannabis inspectors, gaming investigators, or conservation officers.
Vaccine card requirements will be in place until Jan. 31, 2022, but could be extended based on COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths from the disease.
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