Hamilton bylaw officers checked close to 50 businesses for vaccine verification compliance

A person wears a mask to protect them from the COVID-19 virus while walking past information about vaccination proof on Thursday September 23, 2021. The Cana

The City of Hamilton says it’s investigating a number of businesses who have reportedly refused to enforce the province’s COVID-19 vaccine certificate policy.

In an email to Global News, city staff confirmed 50 establishments received visits since the start of the weekend, including several outlets who stated on social media and websites they will not be complying with vaccine verifications.

“To-date, Licensing Administration has logged approx. 20 calls/complaints received since September 22,” staff said.

Read more: Ontario enforcement agencies report few incidents in early days of COVID-19 vaccine certificates

So far, bylaw officers have only advised businesses and patrons of the provincial requirements surrounding vaccine verifications and the penalties that come with a failure to comply. The city did not reveal any charges as of Tuesday.

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Ontario’s vaccine certificate program took effect on Wednesday and requires businesses like dine-in restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, sports facilities and other venues to check patrons for a full vaccination receipt.

Doctors’ notes for medical exemptions will also be accepted.

Jenna Graham, owner of the Harbour Diner on James Street North, is one of the businesses not enforcing proof-of-vaccination and says asking for people’s medical information is simply something that’s not in in their job description.

Click to play video: 'Ontario looks to deploy more inspectors to monitor COVID-19 vaccine certificate compliance'
Ontario looks to deploy more inspectors to monitor COVID-19 vaccine certificate compliance

“Usually that’s shared information between your doctor and yourself and not anybody else’s business,” Graham told Global News.

“So that’s why we’re not choosing to do so.”

Graham doesn’t feel it’s a necessary measure since residents, vaccinated and not vaccinated, can both shop in a grocery store together and ride in an Uber.

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“But for some reason, the same vaccinated and unvaccinated people cannot come into the diner and they cannot eat at separate tables,” said Graham.

Downtown Coun. Jason Farr, whose ward has a postal code (L8L) with one of the city’s lowest vaccination rates where Harbour Diner is, said he’s discouraged to hear some operators were not adhering to the province’s protocols.

Read more: Ontario COVID-19 vaccine certificate program for many indoor public settings now in effect

“It should be a signal to those who need to operate with the passport protocol to do so efficiently and steadfastly and take into consideration the health and well-being of all the prospective patrons,” Farr said.

Meanwhile the province’s ministry of labour (MOL) has confirmed to Global News they are investigating Hamilton’s Nique restaurant on Vine Street at James Street North for a potential breach in the vaccine certificate policy.

“On Sept. 27, the ministry received a complaint regarding Nique Restaurant located in Hamilton,” spokesperson Shilpa Kotecha told Global News.

“An MOL inspector has been assigned and our investigation is ongoing.”

The ministry did not reveal whether any other businesses in Hamilton are presently being probed for non-compliance.

Read more: ‘Don’t take it out on us’: Some restaurants face abuse over vaccine passports

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Fines for businesses and patrons for failing to comply range from $750-$1000, according to city staff. Business owners who don’t follow the rules may face fines of up to $10 million under the Reopening Ontario Act.

The city says more spot checks based on complaints are expected across the city and that will include checks on patrons at a given establishment.

“Officers will be using their discretion as part of their progressive enforcement and charges will be issued if regulations are ignored,” the city said in statement.

Enforcement teams will also continue to monitor social media for businesses and individuals not complying with the rules.

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