Several restaurants in Barrie reported a lot fewer people coming through the doors at the weekend, the first one since Ontario’s proof-of-vaccination system kicked in.
Paul Markle, executive director of the Barrie Chamber of Commerce, says that’s what he heard, in discussions with a couple of restaurant operators, and what he saw on social media Monday morning. Trying to pinpoint a reason for the drop is not something Markle was able to do, but he says it’s concerning.
“This was meant to be something that makes it safer to go into restaurants, or at least make people feel safer when they got into restaurants and those kinds of establishments,” says Markle. “I hate to see for people not to go into them as they have been up to this point. These businesses really need this volume and additional revenue.”
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required to access non-essential businesses in Ontario, including indoor restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, concert halls and movie theatres, under the vaccine certification program that began on Sept. 22.
Markle says they are happy the government has put this in place because it creates the opportunity to increase vaccination rates and keep businesses open. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without challenges.
“We are cognizant that this is an additional burden to businesses that they have to work with every single day,” adds Markle. “They’re having staffing issues at the moment, so adding additional staff to handle check-ins is obviously a problem.”
The Ford government is working toward a digital vaccine certificate for Oct. 22. There will be an app for businesses that will scan and verify the contents of a QR code. Officials say the app will show businesses a checkmark or an ‘X’ to confirm a person’s vaccination status. If it can be rolled out sooner, Markle is all for it.
“They (businesses) feel like they’re in a pinch,” Markle says. “They don’t want to be the police in this situation and having to be the enforcement wing of the government in terms of having to stop people and check their identification.”
He reminds people that businesses don’t have a choice in this situation when it really comes down to it.
“They need to follow the guidance of the government. In most cases, they cannot afford the penalties and they can’t afford any bad press on their establishment because they are not following the rules.”
The local chamber has run a series of webinars about the certificate system and how businesses can navigate the new rules.