As vaccine passports arrive, N.L. businesses, organizations say they're ready, but guarded

·3 min read
Phil Maloney, co-owner of Bannerman Brewing Co. in St. John's, displays a computer tablet that his staff will use to verify that patrons entering the business are fully vaccinated. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Phil Maloney, co-owner of Bannerman Brewing Co. in St. John's, displays a computer tablet that his staff will use to verify that patrons entering the business are fully vaccinated. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)

The vaccine passport is now a reality in Newfoundland and Labrador, and some business owners and community group leaders say they're ready to comply, but worry about the costs.

"Fully in support of the mandate. Just trying to work out the kinks," Phil Maloney, co-owner at Bannerman Brewing in St. John's, said Thursday, just hours prior to the implementation of what's known as NLVaxPass.

Under the new policy, patrons entering non-essential businesses like Bannerman Brewing now have to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, either through a QR code on their mobile devices or a printed copy of the QR code, or have an approved medical exemption. Along with vaccination proof, identification is also required.

In some cases, visitors without a digital or paper QR code can present the vaccination record issued to them by the provincial government.

Whatever the circumstance, this means eateries like Bannerman Brewing must station a staff member at the front entrance to scan patrons as they arrive, and that's an added cost at a time when the restaurant business is at a seasonal low point, said Maloney.

Maloney said he's pro-vaccine but downloading the responsibility onto businesses should have been accompanied with some type of government support.

"It's tough. We're all small businesses trying to make it," he said.

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

Maloney said it will take some time to determine the financial hit to his business, but in the meantime, he's urging everyone to do their part as the new policy emerges as the latest tool in the fight against COVID-19.

"I just hope everyone is kind. We're all just trying to get to the other side of this crazy time," he said.

Existing face mask and physical distancing rules, meanwhile, will also remain in place.

The list of places required to adopt the vaccine policy is long, but in simple terms, businesses and settings considered non-essential have to follow the passport policy.

So whether you're attending a wedding reception, yoga studio, hair salon, bingo hall or bowling alley, proof of vaccination is required. The list also includes places of worship, long-term care homes, personal-care homes, assisted living facilities and community-care homes.

In many cases, the extra cost of enforcing the policy will be passed on to users, with some organizations saying it's the cost of staying in operation during a pandemic.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

That's the case at Feildian Gardens hockey rink in St. John's, which is owned by the Avalon Celtics minor hockey association.

"At this point it doesn't seem like anyone has an issue with it. It's an accepted part of COVID," Celtics president Mark Sexton said of the prospect of higher user fees.

Those 18 and under entering the rink to play hockey can enter as before, but spectators, volunteers and coaches age 13 and over must provide proof of vaccination.

The association has contracted a security company to post a guard at the main entrance to enforce the policy, said Sexton.

"We felt it was the best route for us as a small, not-for-profit organization. We weren't really equipped with a number of staff to handle that," he said.

Sexton said his group has no choice but to comply with the policy.

"We as hockey volunteers are the keepers of the game for 350 kids. The game must go on but in a safe environment and that's what we are doing, implementing whatever comes our way to keep hockey rolling."

The new provincial policy does not apply to airports. However, beginning Oct. 30, all passengers age 12 and over will be required to show proof of vaccination before they can board an aircraft, according to Transport Canada regulations.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting