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Toronto strip clubs mark latest sector to require COVID-19 vaccinations for attendance

Click to play video: 'Toronto adult entertainment businesses to insist patrons are vaccinated when reopening' Toronto adult entertainment businesses to insist patrons are vaccinated when reopening
WATCH ABOVE: Shut down almost entirely through the pandemic, some Ontario adult entertainment venues intend to insist that patrons be fully vaccinated when clubs reopen Friday. At least two Toronto clubs have made vaccination a requirement of staff. As Sean O’Shea reports, the problem is that there is no way to force customers to prove their status – Jul 14, 2021

With various businesses in Ontario preparing to once again welcome customers as a part of the provincial government’s decision to enter into Step 3 of the reopening plan on Friday, different sectors have begun announcing policies that will require patrons to be inoculated against COVID-19.

Opening Friday afternoon is Filmores, a strip club in downtown Toronto that has, for months, been barred from providing adult entertainment as a result of restrictions imposed by the Ontario government.

Kaspar Cameron, the entertainment manager for the business, said the move into Step 3 is welcome for the company and for the industry, arguing the sector has been discriminated against.

“It means everything. So many people have been unemployed, scattered, I have so many entertainers that are coming in from all over the world because Ontario has been one of the strictest provinces and we’re still locked down,” he told Global News Wednesday afternoon.

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Read more: Ontario to enter Step 3 of COVID-19 reopening plan on July 16, days earlier than expected

As part of its preparations for reopening, all of the staff at Filmores have received two COVID-19 vaccine doses. Cameron said their patrons will be required to have at least one dose since dancers and staff will be wearing masks.

“We prefer to have a vaccine passport, but unfortunately that doesn’t exist at this time. So we’re just going to take whatever measures we can to ensure the safety of our dancers, our staff and our patrons, and at the same time we’re going to do anything and everything possible — even above what the government asks us to do,” he said.

“We haven’t had any pushback. As a matter of fact, it’s been more of a request on the staff and dancer side. ‘Are we going to be fully vaccinated? Are people going to be vaccinated?’ It’s their concern, not just our’s.”

When it comes to enforcing the policy, Cameron said it will be an honour system when patrons are asked because there is no other mechanism to check.

Read more: Mississauga strip club owner, staff say they’re being unfairly targeted amid rise in coronavirus cases

“Through our due diligence, we don’t want to discriminate against anybody else either but at the same time we’ve got to do what’s best, our dancers, our staff and our patrons,” he said.

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“[A vaccine passport] makes it a lot easier on our end. We don’t want to infringe on anybody, but at the same time we have to do what we think is best.”

To date, the Ontario and Canadian governments haven’t announced any firm plans for vaccine passports.

Allen Cooper, the owner of the adult entertainment business Zanzibar Tavern in downtown Toronto, said he too is looking forward to Friday and noted they too will have a similar policy for vaccinations.

Read more: Strippers’ advocacy group seeks judicial review of Ontario strip club shutdown

“It feels like we were the last people to open on earth and the first people to close, so I think it’s great,” he told Global News when asked about entering Step 3.

“The perception of the industry was so bad last year and I think it was unfair, so we’re trying to improve that. And more importantly, the chances of catching COVID or getting really ill are far, far less if you’re vaccinated, so we’re encouraging people to be healthy.”

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Cooper called on the Ontario government to provide clearer direction and public health advice for reopening.

In June, Zanzibar Tavern in partnership with Maggie’s Toronto turned the iconic establishment into a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

Read more: Zanzibar, iconic Toronto adult entertainment venue, holds COVID-19 vaccination clinic

While the decision to impose vaccination policies for on-site attendance isn’t widely in place across Toronto, news of the development came a day after Seneca College confirmed it will require immunizations for anyone who wants to be on one of the college’s campuses, including students, staff and contractors.

Meanwhile, as he and his staff countdown to Friday, Cameron had a message for potential customers.

“Come on down on Friday, have some fun and you’ll be safe,” he said.

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