Ottawa businesses start asking for vaccination proof today

·3 min read
The Prana Shanti Yoga Centre is ready to have staff review customers' vaccination receipts and identification, even if they're not entirely sure of the different forms of documentation they might see, said director Devinder Kaur. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)
The Prana Shanti Yoga Centre is ready to have staff review customers' vaccination receipts and identification, even if they're not entirely sure of the different forms of documentation they might see, said director Devinder Kaur. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)

Many Ottawa businesses say they're ready to make yet another pandemic-era pivot and start screening customers for proof of vaccination if it means they can stay open.

Business owners have posted signs on doors alerting patrons that as of Wednesday the Ontario government now requires they show a paper or digital receipt of being fully vaccinated, along with identification.

Under the provincial rules announced at the beginning of September, people age 12 and older will need such vaccination proof to dine indoors, go to a gym, a sporting event, a theatre, and in several other situations.

The receipts won't be necessary for retail and grocery stores, when picking up take-out food, or for youth under age 18 taking part in organized sports indoors.

Many local businesses said they're ready, even if they are figuring out the new rules for themselves without much help.

"It's a large responsibility," said Devinder Kaur, owner of Prana Shanti Yoga Centre, who expects vaccine passports to require extra staff time.

"We're not trained, we're not skilled in knowing all the nuances of the various documentations that we could see."

The Ridge Rock Brewing Company has also sorted out the new rules based on news stories, and has decided its restaurant hosts or hostesses will check people's paperwork.

"It might create a little bit of lineup at the door, but this is for everybody's safety," said the Carp village brewery's marketing manager, Lindsey Osborne.

"The last thing we want as a small business is to have to close again."

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

QR codes to come Oct. 22

Should a particular customer give staff a hard time about showing vaccination proof, Osborne says a manager will explain the brewery is simply following the province's directions.

Pat Garland, owner and chef at Absinthe Café on Wellington Street West, agreed he wouldn't have a problem turning people away, and telling them it's the government's requirement, not his restaurant's.

"I don't think it's unreasonable at all," he said of the vaccine passports. "It's a global pandemic."

The director of Ottawa's bylaw department was asked during a committee meeting last week what businesses should do if they face customers unwilling to leave.

"If you've got somebody who's refusing to produce proof of their vaccine, and the restaurant management is having some difficulty with that person, they should be contacting the police," Roger Chapman told city councillors.

Chapman said city bylaw officers were meeting with business improvement groups to go over the new provincial regulations about vaccine passports and didn't expect to receive many calls. Ottawa Public Health also said it tries to keep businesses up-to-date on provincial changes through a regular newsletter.

Osborne expects her brewery will have a smoother process when the government introduces vaccine certificates that feature QR codes on Oct. 22, which can be scanned.

In the meantime, she expects customers will understand and practise patience, as they have for other pandemic restrictions such as wearing masks or eating only on patios.

"We've been pivoting and shifting gears for months now," said Osborne. "It's another hump that we'll get over in order to keep everybody safe — our guests and our staff — and keep the doors open."

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