Less than a week into the launch of B.C.’s vaccine passport program, several B.C. businesses are already publicly defying the order.
Rolly’s Restaurant in Hope says it won’t be checking customers for proof of immunization, which is currently required to access an array of non-essential indoor services in the province.
The restaurant’s owners declined an on-camera interview, but told Global News they believe the vaccine passport program forces them to discriminate against customers.
They would rather let diners decide for themselves if they feel comfortable inside the restaurant, the owners said.
“This isn’t discrimination against clients,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said when asked about the restaurant.
“This is recognizing the bulk of the people in this province are vaccinated, and the way we’re going to defeat this virus is by everybody getting vaccinated.”
On Friday, People’s Party of Canada candidate Rob Bogunovic held a meet and greet outside the restaurant, flanked by a sign reading “informed consent” and “no coercion.”
The party has made opposition to vaccine mandates a key plank in its campaign.
In Vancouver, another establishment that has been at the centre of controversy for resisting COVID-19 restrictions also appeared to be testing B.C.’s vaccine passport rules.
Business was booming at Corduroy restaurant in Kitsilano on Thursday, where a staff member told Global News they were not checking immunization status.
The employee said the restaurant was doing counter service only, apparently seeking a loophole in vaccine card regulations over whether table service is involved.
The provincial health order enacting the vaccine passport, however, is clear that it applies to all liquor-licensed establishments, regardless of whether table service is involved.
Esquimalt’s Sunnyside Café, which previously vowed to defy the proof of immunization program, also posted a video to Facebook this week reiterating its commitment not to check vaccination status.
A Facebook group dedicated to tracking similar businesses was also busy this week with posts about non-compliant establishments.
“There could be violations of their liquor licensing in effect, there could be WorkSafe violations, there could be COVID safety plan violations,” Farnworth said.
Farnworth added the province’s interagency enforcement would look into any loopholes, and would decide when enforcement was necessary.
But speaking to reporters on Friday, Premier John Horgan suggested the province wasn’t focused on a crackdown.
“We’ve been working on trying to have a very soft touch on enforcement,” Horgan said.
“We have made this about following the lead of the public, and the public wants confidence that when they go out to these nonessential activities, they will be doing so with people of like mind, people who have taken steps to protect themselves.”
The public safety minister, he added, would have more to say on the enforcement issue in the days to come.
While Rolly’s owners confirmed they had been visited by bylaw and health inspectors, it wasn’t immediately clear whether they were being assessed any sanctions.
Should the restaurant face fines, supporters have already said they would help support a legal defence fund for the eatery.
As of Friday, nearly 79 per cent of eligible British Columbians had been vaccinated.
Despite making up the vast majority of the population, fully vaccinated individuals represented just five per cent of cases in critical care in B.C., and less than 14 per cent of all cases in hospital over the last two weeks.View link »