restaurant contact tracing

Some people are refusing to give their contact info when dining at Toronto restaurants

Eating out is a privilege, not a right — now more than ever at the height of a global pandemic, when restaurant owners must abide by strict, government-mandated health and safety rules.

Some people seem reluctant to admit this for reasons that are not quite clear and despite it being a cold, hard fact.

Now that Toronto has entered Stage 3 of Ontario's economic reopening plan, bars, restaurants and cafes are gradually welcoming customers back into the indoor areas of their establishments, with many precautions in place.

Similar to those who refused to wear masks into retail stores, supermarkets, transit stations and even hospitals when the City of Toronto announced its Mandatory Mask or Face Covering Bylaw, some prospective diners are now refusing to comply with another municipal order meant to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

It's the one that requires restaurants to record one guest name and phone numbers from every table for the purpose of contact tracing — something a lot of places have already been doing proactively to ensure the safety of staff and guests.

Several hospitality industry workers have spoken out online in recent days after being snipped at or downright harassed by potential patrons who say asking for such information violates their rights. (It doesn't.)

While the Province of Ontario doesn't require businesses to record customer information, the City of Toronto now does after amending its municipal code to put enhanced safety measures in place, mostly for bars and restaurants, given the city's size and density.

In addition to capping the number of people allowed inside a restaurant or at one specific table and requiring patrons to stay seated unless they're paying or using the washroom, restaurant owners are now required to keep customer logs in case of accidental exposure to the virus.

Per the city's bylaw, these logs must record "customer information, in a legible manner, consisting of the name, email address and telephone number of at least one person from each party that attends an indoor or outdoor area of the premises where food or drink is served or consumed."

The records must be stored securely for 30 days and then destroyed. Restaurants must produce the record to Toronto Public Health if requested within that 30-day period.

The process is literally no more obtrusive for patrons than booking a reservation, but anti-masker types still seem to be taking up issue with being told what to do.

"Had a couple walk up to the patio last night. 'Hello  Table for 2?'  They just look at me like I'm stupid," wrote one industry worker in the popular Food and Wine Industry Navigator Facebook group on Thursday. 

"'Ok, well one of you has to sign in.'  WHY?  Says dood.  Seriously?  He says he doesn't believe in that (signing in). Ok well your guest could if your not comfortable with that. They say there going someplace else then. BYEeeeeeeee says me."

"I am beyond baffled at people's ignorance," replied another restaurant staffer. "I asked for a phone number, and the loser guy says 123456... 'guess you don't want a table then, buddy.'"

"I've had someone say 'why do you need my phone number?' and when I explained to them it's in case of contact tracing they were like, 'no, that’s wrong. I know my rights, you can't trace me.' I further explained it's government mandated and for safety, but she just kept repeating 'I'm not giving you any information I know my rights.'"

Do people like this have a right to withhold their personal information? Of course. But so too do restaurants have the right to refuse these people service.

One person in the Food and Wine Industry Navigator thread explained the phenomenon well in writing: "I had to firmly ask a guest to vacate the premises when he made a scene about signing in with our staff. In the ensuing conversation, it became evident this guy was an asshole before COVID-19 also."

"Can't fix stupid," wrote another. "I just ask them to email me their Epidemiology PhD thesis."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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