Some Okanagan businesses are pushing back against mandated vaccine cards, saying that the incoming rules will be impossible for their staff to enforce and are discriminatory.
One Kelowna business owner who was quick to state opposition to the new health measures is Jason Alton, the owner of Ricco Bambino.
Having long anticipated a card or passport coming into effect, he went to the wine bar’s social media account after the rules were announced and posted his thoughts.
“We do not discriminate against gender, age, colour, religion, gender expression, national orientation, marital status, sexual orientation, vaccinated or unvaccinated,” Alton said. ”Everyone has been and always will be welcome at Ricco Bambino.”
The post has since been shared hundreds of time and has seemingly spurred a social media movement among some Okanagan businesses and organizations who have also stated their opposition to any rule that would see them refuse service to someone based on their vaccination status.
A growing number of those in opposition can be found on Facebook in the group, BC Businesses against Health Pass which now has more than 35,000 members.
Alton wants people to know he doesn’t have a pro or anti-vaccine stance, and he’s happy to comply with other health measures that have been instituted.
“I just think it’s your choice to take the vaccine, but it should be private,” he said.
He also said having his staff enforce mask rules has been challenging enough, but asking for vaccination information will be impossible to enforce. All of it will create a divide that he can’t afford.
“To ask if you’re vaccinated and turn more people away? I can’t do it, we are struggling, businesses are struggling right now,” he said.
By taking a stance against health measures, Alton knows he will face repercussions.
Regardless, Alton believes it’s his moral obligation to take the stand, come what may.
The Ministry of Health said in an email, “We expect all relevant businesses to comply with public health orders, and the province will be engaging with them over the next several weeks to support them with this work. If individuals or businesses do not comply, there are enforcement measures, such as closure, that can be considered.”
The Kelowna Chamber surveyed its members on the issue over the last few days and 57 per cent of respondents said they were supportive of some sort of vaccine verification system for non-essential activities if it meant getting back to normal business levels, but 36 per cent were strongly opposed.
“Our members have strong feelings on this subject,” Jeffrey Robinson, president of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, said in a press release.
“The common ground seems to be a desire to return to normal, but there are fundamental differences over whether requiring some private businesses to refuse service to unvaccinated customers is consistent with that goal.”
Chamber members also raised concerns about support for those businesses that will be required to implement vaccine verification and want clarification on how it will be among other things.
“There needs to be clarity so that employees are not unfairly put in conflict with customers so we would encourage government to re-examine the timeline for implementation so businesses can fully understand and reasonably plan for what it appears the government is going to ask them to do,” Chamber Executive Director Dan Rogers said.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged Monday when she announced the card that conflict may arise with staff members of local businesses enforcing the card.
“These are the challenging things that we’ve been facing throughout this pandemic, but it is very much the same thing as looking at proof of identification of age to get into a bar or nightclub, for example,” Henry said.
“We will be working to support businesses in how to manage this. We are making it as simple as we possibly can to have a confidential way of determining people’s immunization status.”
As per the new rules, only vaccinated people will be able to attend indoor ticketed sporting events, indoor concerts, indoor theatre/dance/symphony events, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, movie theatres, fitness centres, and organized indoor events like weddings, parties, conferences and meetings.
A website will be publicized prior to Sept. 13, where British Columbians can access their proof of vaccination and save a copy to their phone.
The Interior Health region may also get some of the rules instituted earlier than other areas of B.C.
Alton said that he thinks the measures are coercive and an unfair use of power.
They also may be working. On Wednesday, the province recorded a significant increase in the number of vaccine registrations and bookings for first doses, particularly among people under the age of 40.
On Monday, Aug. 23, there were 8,909 new registrations and 7,347 new appointment bookings. This represents a 174.8 per cent increase in daily registrations and an 88.6 per cent daily increase in bookings compared to the previous Monday, which recorded 3,242 new registrations and 3,896 bookings.
On Tuesday, Aug. 24, there were 10,175 total new registrations and 9,486 new appointment bookings. This represents a 201.3 per cent increase in registrations and a 124.4% increase in bookings compared to the previous Tuesday, which recorded 3,279 new registrations and 4,228 appointment bookings.