As strict new vaccination requirement go in effect Friday for a number of Manitoba business and venues, the president of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce says rural businesses are bracing for the changes, and hoping for some patience and understanding from their customers as they navigate the new rules.
“I believe the challenges of this will be greater for the rural businesses, because in many cases they are the ones that know their customers by name, and now they will be telling some people they are not welcome,” Chuck Davidson said.
Davidson spoke with the Winnipeg Sun on Friday, the same day that strict vaccination requirements came into effect in Manitoba to enter a number of non-essential businesses, including restaurants, fitness centres, and movie theatres.
Davidson said as the new mandates go into effect, he has heard from rural business owners from all corners of the province that say they fear possible harassment or disruptive behavior from customers, as they begin to enforce the government-mandated rules.
“The message we are trying to get across is this,” Davidson said. “It is not the business owners, it is public health that put this in place, so these people who are there and asking you to be double-vaccinated, if you are mad at them then you are directing your anger at the wrong people.
“Taking out your frustration on them is misguided.”
While business owners adjust to the changes, there are some establishments in Manitoba that are already saying they simply aren’t willing to enforce the new mandates.
In a Facebook post on Aug. 27, Steinbach pizza restaurant Rocco’s Pizzeria said they will be closing indoor dining when the new rules are put in place, because they don’t want to tell the unvaccinated they can’t come in.
“We are comfortable taking a short term monetary loss to respect the privacy of individuals,” the post on the business’s Facebook page stated.
“Being in hospitality, it is our responsibility to make ALL of our guests feel welcome, accepted, and loved. We as a team do not feel it is appropriate not being able to welcome each and every person through our doors.”
Other restaurants in the area have made the same decision to stop indoor dining because of the mandates, including Jay’s Café. In a September 1 Facebook post the owners of the Steinbach diner said “we have decided to close down our dining room even though it comes at a great cost to us, more importantly our staff. We simply cannot adhere to being ordered to turn away anyone who is unvaccinated.”
Davidson said that although he believes the best way to put an end to health restrictions is through more people getting vaccinated, he respects the rights of businesses to make their own decisions when it comes to enforcing health measures, or closing their doors.
“This is a case of business owners doing what they feel is right for their businesses and for their customers, and I’m never going to tell a business what they can and can’t do,” Davidson said.
Davidson is now hoping that as businesses settle into the new guidelines over the coming days and weeks, that the number one priority of all businesses in Manitoba is people’s health and their safety.
“This is something the government has put in place, and the reason being is to do everything possible to avoid a fourth wave,” Davidson said.
“We want businesses to take the correct measure so that, at the end of the day, their customers are safe and their staff are safe, because that is job number one.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun