'Getting our feet under us:' Ottawa restaurants adjust to new COVID-19 vaccine passport
OTTAWA -- Ottawa restaurant owners are asking patrons to be patient and understanding as Ontario rolls out the new COVID-19 vaccination passport for non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting Wednesday, residents 12 and over must provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination to dine-in at restaurants, and attend bars, gyms, movie theatres, concerts and sporting events.
At Metropolitan Brasserie, co-owner Sarah Chown says, "So far, so good."
"We're getting our feet under us and seeing a number of different actual vaccination receipts come in from different provinces, and we actually had a Swiss one today," said Chown during an interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.
"So, we're learning to identify where we find the information."
Businesses will be asking patrons for a paper or digital copy of their COVID-19 vaccination receipt and a piece of government-issued ID.
Chown says four customers didn't know you needed to be fully vaccinated to dine in-doors in restaurants, while a few customers didn't have the proper documents and had to eat on the patio.
"Some people didn't realize it had to be 14 days out, a lot of people didn't realize the identification they show needs to show the matching name and date of birth. We had some people sort of showing government ID that doesn't have date of birth on it," said Chown, who is also the Ottawa Chair of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association.
"A few questions from people, and I had a couple of people didn't realize they needed to have it at all, but word will get out there."
At the Brass Monkey on Greenbank Road, owner Scott Ruffo says he has faced opposition to the vaccine passport system after informing customers on social media about the new regulations this week.
"Within minutes, before I turned off the comments on that particular post, I think we had about 30 comments from people saying we were divisionist, which is a new term I've never heard," said Ruffo on Newstalk 580 CFRA.
"It's clearly not the case, we're complying. We're just another small business like many around the country and around the world that are trying to keep our doors open after 18 months of really, really taking a hard loss."
The Brass Monkey is currently open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Ruffo says he will be adding staff to enforce the proof of vaccination requirements and make sure employees do not face any issues alone.
"This time of day I usually have one employee working – I have a bartender on who handles our pool tables during the evening and stuff like that," said Ruffo. "Now I have to have a second person on just to ensure that there are two people in the venue the entire time because I'm a little concerned about having one woman in there working by herself and if she's faced with any issues, I don't want her to be alone. It's doubled up my payroll for sure."
With businesses already facing a tight labour market, this might mean additional hires.
"This is yet another demand on small businesses and the people that work there," said Steve Beckta, owner of Beckta Dining and Wine, Gezellig and Play Food and Wine.
Beckta expects the vaccine passport will be part of the new pandemic normal soon.
"I think in a couple of weeks I think it'll be second nature."
Premier Doug Ford told reporters on Wednesday the new proof of vaccination system is the "best chance" to avoid another lockdown.
“But, let me be very clear, this is a temporary and exceptional measure. We will only use these certificates for as long as they are needed and not one day longer," said Ford.
Ruffo expects the COVID-19 vaccine passports to remain in place until the spring.
Back at Metropolitan Brasserie, Chown says the new proof of vaccination system will add extra time for customers at the door.
"Given it's day one and some folks aren't prepared and don't have it up on their phone when they arrive," said Chown.
"So add some extra time to your visit, be understanding that the host station is learning and they are under a lot of stress to be able to take down all this information, as well as still doing all the contact tracing they have to do.
"If the customer is prepared, you are not looking at a lot of extra time – maybe an extra 30 to 45 seconds or so. If they're not prepared and they have to pull it up on their phones, it does delay the check-in process."