Toronto restaurants divided over whether to still enforce vaccine passports
With the news that requirements for restaurants to screen vaccine passports in Ontario is lifting, some owners are feeling relief.
Not necessarily because they're totally sure it's the right way forward, but mostly because it's a load off their already overtaxed staff and systems.
"While the idea of volunteering to continue the passport system might seem like a noble pursuit, it is difficult to justify from a business perspective when it costs money and labour to actively scan QR codes at the door," Paupers Pub general manager Adam Slight tells blogTO.
"We're coming out of another lockdown during the slowest month of the year, and such costs are hard to swallow."
He's also concerned that with the requirement phasing out, other businesses that aren't adding the extra step to entry will be more appealing to people, further affecting the bottom line at Paupers, a restaurant and bar in the Annex.
"It is also difficult to justify continuing passport screening when your competitors choose to end the practice and you're left creating barriers to your business and they're removing them," says Slight.
If I were planning to dine at a restaurant in Ontario in the coming months, I’d call ahead and ask if they’re still checking vaccine passports, even if they’re mo longer required. No checking, then no dining at that restaurant for me. #onpoli— James Wooten (@rantonstupidity) February 14, 2022
The pub will be doing what they've been doing this whole time: following government mandates, acknowledging the decision to do away with a passport system entirely rather than continue with something that feels obsolete and like it will never catch up.
"The vaccine passport system has continued on a two-shot minimum despite the fact that the booster, third shot, has been deemed essential in fighting Omicron cases," says Slight. "The government could have updated the system to require a third shot, but they decided it was time to scrap the system instead."
I worry that restaurants that decide to keep the policy will be vilified and will be victims of targeted harassment. I hope I am wrong but we saw this kind of stuff before the passports were put in place.— Michael C (@bobatyork) February 14, 2022
Restaurants focused on takeout and delivery like burger joint Aunty Lucy's have been less affected by dine-in restrictions, but now they're entering that world with their food being served at new cocktail bar Two Twos, stationed at The Annex Hotel where Lucy's is located.
"It's only been open for a couple weeks, and vaccine mandate protocols are being followed, which our clientele is used to," Chieff Bosompra of Aunty Lucy's tells blogTO.
"The lifting of the mandates will make it that much smoother for customers to get service and we are looking forward to that."
I probably won’t go into restaurants or bars again for a while once they get rid of the passport. Will wait a while. Just a fact. 🤷🏻♂️— Jeffrey Luscombe (@JeffreyLuscombe) February 14, 2022
Over at intimate sushi bar Omai, Jason Ching is a bit more on the fence about the situation, but similarly can't deny the relief he feels facing the prospect of never having to check passports again.
"Enforcing proof of vaccination has been a thankless task for our staff and it really has worn us out a bit," Ching tells blogTO. "I think that we look forward to the day we won't have to check, but at the same time, we want to provide a safe environment for our staff and guests alike."
Omai wants to make the decision on whether to continue enforcing proof of vaccination as a team, and take everyone's comfort levels into consideration.
"My gut feeling is that we'll probably continue to enforce it but reevaluate on a weekly basis," says Ching.
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