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Calgary businesses prepare for voluntary vaccine passport ahead of first day

Click to play video: 'Restrictions Exemption Program changes leaves Calgary business owner disappointed' Restrictions Exemption Program changes leaves Calgary business owner disappointed
As restaurant owners ready themselves for the first day of Alberta's proof-of-vaccination program, owners of retail shops were left scratching their heads this weekend after a last-minute change by the provincial government disqualified them from being eligible to take part in the program. As Matthew Conrod reports, a city committee may now look to pass a bylaw which would enable businesses to require a vaccine card – Sep 19, 2021

Monday will be the first day of the province’s “Restrictions Exemption Program,” which calls for restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment facilities to require that customers show proof-of-vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Unlike other provinces that have adopted a vaccine passport, the restriction exemption program is voluntary for non-essential businesses. If proof of vaccination is required, then restrictions will not apply. If not, restrictions will remain in place.

For Rain Dog Bar owner Bill Bonar, opting into the program was a no-brainer.

Read more: Alberta doctors, businesses react to new COVID-19 measures, vaccine passport

“It’s either close, because we don’t have any patio space, and do some take-out, or be fully up and running,” says Bonar.

Bonar hasn’t decided if he’ll ask for proof-of-vaccination at the entrance or once customers are at their seats.

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As for enforcement of the new rules, Bonar will handle that personally and simply ask customers to leave if they don’t cooperate.

“I’m not sending a young or inexperienced staff to do it, or someone who doesn’t know what the rules are or who doesn’t have the authority to enact the rules, so people coming in are going to be dealing with me.”

A short walk down 9th Avenue in Inglewood is retail shop Madame Premier.

The shop’s owner was caught off-guard by a last-minute change Saturday evening that removed retail businesses from being eligible to take part in the program, meaning they will now need to abide by specific health measures, which include a capacity restriction.

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“Frankly, it’s very perplexing to me that you wouldn’t restrict the capacity of restaurants to one-third when you have people sitting inside unmasked,” says Sarah Elder-Chamanara.

Alberta Health says the reason retail services are not permitted to take part in the program is because they sell items that individuals or households may require at some point.

Regardless, beginning Monday, shoppers at Madame Premier will need to show they’ve had at least one dose of a vaccine.

“I am primarily my only staff member, so this will be on me to enforce this,” says Elder-Chamanara. “When I see someone come into the front door, I will be asking for proof of vaccination.”

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In an effort to create a level playing field from business to business, Ward 6 councillor and mayoral candidate Jeff Davison says a city committee may look to pass a bylaw that would create a local vaccine passport.

Davison says a bylaw would eliminate confusion from customers and take the responsibility away from businesses to outline the rules.

“Providing a consistent message, consistent signage so that businesses can get on with just operating and not worrying about the restrictions of the day,” says Davison.

According to Davison, the bylaw could a long way in restoring some much-needed peace to Calgary.

“We’ve got to turn the temperature down on this and figure out how we’re going to move forward together, and hopefully this bylaw will help us do that.”

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