The owner of a Halifax business recovering from the impacts of COVID-19 has had enough of proof-of-vaccination protesters trying to enter his store without wearing masks.
“Generally business has been OK, kind of back to almost pre-COVID numbers, but Friday nights have been hell,” said Philip Holmans, the owner of the World Tea House.
Every Friday for the last few weeks, a group of people have been gathering on Argyle Street — a popular spot for dining and drinking in the city — to protest the province’s proof-of-vaccination requirements.
Holmans supports people’s right to protest. He comes from a military family and knows that right was hard-won by the generations that came before.
“I’m all for people protesting and being able to voice their opinions,” he said. “But they insist on trying to enter my business without a mask on, and we do have a mask policy, as do most businesses in HRM.”
He said at first, the business was accommodating to the group. Holmans stayed late for the first couple of Friday nights and helped serve them outside.
But one week, he wasn’t there and a group entered the store and were “quite hostile” to the staff who asked them to wear masks.
With that, he took in the outdoor patio furniture and stopped serving them outside. He has now taken up post outside to prevent maskless customers from entering the store.
“If you want to put on a mask, absolutely, you can take your drinks and go to your protest,” he said.
“But without physically putting on a piece of cloth for that 10 feet, and that 30-second transaction — if you’re that adamant about not having that on, then I’m pretty adamant about not serving you.”
In an email, Halifax Regional Police spokesperson John MacLeod said police “are aware of the ongoing issue in that area and have been monitoring the situation.”
“It is important that business owners formally report violations when they occur so that we can be aware of them and look in to them to determine the appropriate actions. Our approach continues to be a combination of education and enforcement, and we will enforce as necessary,” MacLeod said.
“We remind the public to follow the current public health measures related to the COVID-19 emergency and strongly advise members of the public to educate themselves on the Phase 5 public health directives and COVID-19 enforcement measures, including those related to illegal gatherings and associated fines.”
Businesses ‘fed up’
Holmans said that while the protesters aren’t actively blocking entrances to the businesses in the area, their presence is dissuading customers from coming in.
He said he has spoken to other businesses in the area and they are “fed up.”
“(The protesters) talk about their rights, violating their human rights and all that stuff. But what about us?” he said.
“Don’t we have a right to make a living? Don’t we have a right to feed our children? Don’t we have a right to create a good work environment for our staff and for our customers?”
He also said there are better places they can protest — such as government buildings — rather than outside the restaurants and businesses that are simply following the province’s rules.
“Getting that attention to your cause is important, but you can’t negatively impact other people for your cause. That’s not cool,” he said.
“I just want peace and my staff to feel safe and my customers to feel safe. And if they’re preventing that, then that’s a huge issue for me.”