Vaccine passports seen as setback, burden to restaurants and bars

Restaurant owners have been told that employees won’t have to be vaccinated, but their clients will.

Author of the article:

Paul Cherry  •  Montreal Gazette

Publishing date:

Aug 10, 2021  •  10 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •  9 Comments

Requiring vaccine passports for employees would have been problematic for an industry facing a labour shortage, says Martin Vézina, a spokesperson for Association Restauration Québec.
Requiring vaccine passports for employees would have been problematic for an industry facing a labour shortage, says Martin Vézina, a spokesperson for Association Restauration Québec. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

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Plans to introduce vaccine passports come as a setback just as some restaurant and bar owners were starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, Peter Sergakis said Tuesday.

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Sergakis is owner of dozens of establishments that will be affected by Health Minister Christian Dubé’s announcement on Tuesday that proof of double vaccination will be required as of Sept. 1 for access to non-essential services like bars, restaurants and gyms. He’s also the head of the Union des tenanciers des bars du Québec.

He and other owners had originally asked the provincial government to issue double-vaccination passports before they were allowed to reopen, Sergakis said. That request had been put forward in an effort to guarantee bars and restaurants at least some customers, a better alternative to not letting anyone inside their establishments at all, he said.

“We asked for the double passport in the beginning, before we reopened, because we needed at least some customers to come into our places. At the beginning, we only wanted to be open to double-vaccinated people. It was a starting point. Now those people — single-vaccinated, double-vaccinated or not-vaccinated — they are already in our places. To me it’s going to hurt us more if we (require a passport) now.

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“It’s complex. We don’t like the unknown. We don’t want to lose customers now. We want to gain customers in our establishments.

“We’re starting to recover a little bit, but business is not flourishing. It’s slowly coming back, but in the past two weeks it looks like it has slowed down again. People are afraid of getting sick again. It’s very, very unstable. We started seeing the end of the tunnel and now it’s getting foggy again.”

Martin Vézina, a spokesperson for Association Restauration Québec, which represents 6,500 establishments across the province, said that, at the very least, restaurants will be allowed to remain open.

“We find that this new vaccine passport will be another burden for our industry, another challenge,” Vézina said. “But if it can keep dining rooms open it will be acceptable.”

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“We have assurances for now that employees are not required to be vaccinated or have this vaccine passport to work at a restaurant. It’s something that we are happy to receive as a decision because there is a labour shortage in our industry.

“If more employees can’t work anymore, many establishments will close down. For example, if you have three cooks and one or two only have one dose or aren’t vaccinated, the restaurant maybe can’t stay open with just one cook. So we’re happy with that as it will allow restaurants to stay open in the coming months.”

Natascha Lajoie, the manager of Gym St-Henri on St-Jacques St. in Montreal, which reopened on June 22, said Dubé’s announcement comes as bad news.

“We’re coming out of a period where, for eight months, we could not charge our clients. We’ve just started to re-sign contracts and there is a certain part of our clients who are not OK at all with the vaccine,” she said. “This will not help us. That is certain.”

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In a release, the Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain welcomed the news.

“The introduction of the vaccination passport for high traffic public events and non-essential activities with high contact rates is excellent news,” Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the chamber of commerce, wrote. “The passport was also largely supported by respondents to our recent survey, by 77 per cent. With the vaccine passport, we will be able to avoid another shutdown of the economy, while preserving jobs and the momentum of the recovery.”

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