British Columbia’s beleaguered restaurant industry says it welcomes mandatory vaccination for diners

BC restaurants will soon be on the front lines of enforcing the province’s vaccination card requirement – a new provincial health order that will make proof of vaccination mandatory to enter a number of non-essential businesses .

Starting Sept. 13, British Columbians will need to show proof they’ve received a dose of the vaccine to enter restaurants and other non-essential businesses like movie theaters, fitness classes and live entertainment.

By October 24, two doses will be needed.

After having to switch to delivery only during the first wave of the pandemic, a second shutdown of indoor restaurants during the third wave and a continued labor shortage, it has been a difficult task for restaurants in the British Columbia.

But many industry players are welcoming the province’s decision to limit restaurant dining to those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The majority of restaurants are really happy about this. I think the reason is that if we do this, we should never see a restaurant in BC close again,” said Ian Tostenson, president of BC Restaurant and Foodservices. Association.

“I think it’s going to provide that long-term predictability and stability that we so badly need.”

However, one wonders how the industry, which is currently facing a major labor shortage, will be able to enforce the new rules.

Shaun Layton, co-owner of Como Taperia, said his restaurant can accommodate between 100 and 200 people a night and he hopes the process will be simplified.

“It’s something that’s going to be very difficult for some restaurants to execute,” he said, adding that his restaurant plans to have a manager at the front of the restaurant to take the pressure off others a bit. Staff.

“To check this every night, hopefully we have the tools to make this an easy process at a time when we are already severely understaffed.”

Diners are pictured eating inside Yolks restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

British Columbia provided few details on how the program will work, but said on Monday that the British Columbia vaccination card will be available online for use on a smartphone – similar to a launched vaccine passport in Quebec.

For those who cannot access proof of vaccination digitally, the province says an “alternative secure option” will be available and that British Columbia is working with other provinces to determine how people vaccinated elsewhere can prove their status. vaccine.

A year and a half of ups and downs

The restaurant industry in British Columbia has fared better than in some other provinces. British Columbia was one of the only provinces to keep indoor restaurants open all winter, closing them only briefly in the spring at the height of the third wave, although even then patios remained open .

With indoor restaurants remaining open with restrictions in place, junior restaurant staff often had to enforce provincial health orders that mandated masks and limited the number of people per table.

Provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry said on Monday the order was no different from checking ID to ensure someone was old enough to enter a bar or club at night – but that the province would provide support to businesses in the form of municipal and environmental health officers. officers.

Tostenson said restaurant staff could also phone the police if anyone refused to comply with the new rules.

“We are the hospitality industry – we are not here to confront people. And that is not something we have brought up – we are following what we think is common sense policy on the part of the government,” did he declare.

Layton said he hopes B.C. residents will once again show patience and empathy for restaurant workers on the front lines of a new provincial health order designed to keep them safe.

“I personally have no problem telling someone they can’t come in if they don’t have proof of vaccination, but I feel for some of our peers who have junior staff at the gates” , did he declare.

“I hope people understand that things can take a little longer and I hope no one gets harassed.”

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Cecil N. Messick