B.C. quietly steps up enforcement on restaurants refusing to check vaccine passports
It calls itself “Fernie’s premier steakhouse,” and the Fernie Cattle Company appears to be openly defying the provincial public health order that requires most restaurants to check that their patrons are vaccinated.
The establishment's Facebook feed features an image of a sign the business says is posted on its front door, which reads “Everyone is welcome” and “We will not ask for personal health information.”
On its Instagram page, a post reads: “The only thing we’ll ask you is what you want to order.”
The restaurant told CTV News it had no comment about its outright rejection of public health policy, though its social media posts point out it enforces other COVID-19 protocols such as masking and distancing.
Ian Tostenson, President & CEO of the B.C. Restaurant & Foodservices Association said about one percent of the licensed, table-service restaurants required to check vaccine passports are openly defying the rules.
“They need to be fined, they need to be shut down,” Tostenson said, speaking generally about businesses who openly dismiss public health orders.
And the province confirmed enforcement is underway, though declined to provide specifics about individual businesses, or share how many tickets have been issued.
“We have full confidence that the collective efforts of all agencies will be effective,” read part of a statement from the Ministry of Public Safety.
On Thursday, the premier was more blunt: “There will be consequences for that,” John Horgan said.
However, he added that he didn’t want a “heavy hand” but instead for “common sense” to prevail.
Horgan also implied that as vaccination numbers in B.C. continue to rise, those businesses defying the order will find themselves increasingly isolated.
Over 80 per cent of those eligible in the province are fully vaccinated, with the proportion of those who have received at least one dose nearing 90 per cent.
Aside from the small group defying the other, Tostenson said the rollout of vaccine passport checks, which began 10 days ago, is going well.
“We’re seeing the public love it because they feel safe,” he said. “They don’t mind doing it. We’re getting into a bit of a flow now.”
Justin Ault, the owner of Yaletown’s Hapa Izakaya, and who often mans the front door, said he’s only had to turn away one customer, a regular.
“We’re not getting into a political discussion, a philosophical discussion,” Ault said.
“It’s black and white. It’s like we’re serving a 17-year-old alcohol. You can’t do it,” he added.
Tostenson said his biggest concern now is helping find funding for restaurants who’ve hired extra staff solely to verify vaccination status.
“If a restaurant puts someone front of the house full-time, you’re probably looking at $60,000 a year,” Tostenson said.
“The premier has said he’s interested in looking at how to perhaps defray those costs, and it’s something we’ll be talking to him about.”
Under public health orders, businesses that don’t comply could be subject to a $2,300 fine.
The province says enforcement is at the discretion of policy, liquor and cannabis inspectors, gambling investigators, and conservation officers, and businesses are responsible, not their employees.