Restaurants conduct their own COVID-19 vaccination checks


Visiting a restaurant in most cities west of Toronto will feel like normal, with many health restrictions now lifted. But as a fourth wave develops, some restaurants fear that a return to normal is too soon.

Bobby Mottola is the President of Academy Hospitality, a restaurant group in Winnipeg that operates a variety of well-known restaurants in the city, including The Merchant Kitchen, Gusto North, and the longtime Pizzeria Gusto. The Manitoba provincial government has dissolved restrictions on indoor dining, such as dining with the same household only and requiring guests to wear masks when going to and from tables, but Mr. Mottola and his group decided to keep certain requirements in place.

Its restaurants politely ask that all guests, vaccinated or not, put on a mask when moving around the space where they dine. In addition, all members of a group must show proof of vaccination at the door, if they are from different households, be able to sit together.

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“We don’t make these decisions in a vacuum,” says Mottola. “We have advice, you know – doctors, friends, clients or family members – like you do when you make these big decisions. You could say it was one of the easiest for us to do compared [to other decisions] in the previous months.

He said a big part of the decision was staff safety.

“It certainly carries a lot of weight. … They work really, really hard and our job is to continue to take care of them the best that we can, ”he says.

A decision like this clearly comes with backlash, especially via social media, but Mr Mottola said most responses to Academy Hospitality’s decision to adhere to certain protocols have been positive.

“The vocal minority has every right to say what they say, but I think we have a social and moral responsibility to keep trying to protect people and do our part. It might not be the smartest decision for us to continue to limit our ability somewhat, to limit who can walk through our door, but we think it’s by far the best decision in the long run ” , he said.

This type of internal pandemic-related protocol is not very common in Canada, although Edmonton’s Fleisch Delikatessen is another example of a restaurant that has gone for a similar self-enforcement.

Owner Katy Ingraham has spoken from the onset of the foodservice worker safety pandemic and how the provincial government has chosen to deal with the waves of cases over the past 18 months.

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Fleisch requires proof of vaccination for guests to eat and drink indoors. Otherwise, it is only a terrace service.

“I don’t want to go back to ‘normal’ hospitality, which is, you know, a lot of very abusive and exploitative environments for workers,” she says. “So as long as I know we’ve done absolutely everything we can to make sure our staff are safe, then I think we can start doing some of the things we want to do like having indoor dining. [for all] and that people do not wear masks indoors. “

In Toronto, Chantecler is a popular dining destination in the city currently open only for patio service. Owner Jacob Wharton-Shukster said the restaurant has explored how to fully reopen with reduced risk to staff.

“We publicly launched the idea [of requesting proof of vaccination] for seats near the bartender. Our better understanding of the spread of the coronavirus via aerosols led us to believe that staff would be put at unnecessary risk; That said, bar service has been an important part of our business from day one. We thought that a vaccine requirement might mitigate that risk, ”said Wharton-Shukster.

Few of the restaurants I contacted in Western Canada wanted to share their intentions to take the extra precaution, but many applauded these efforts and said they wished they could do it the same way. But restaurateurs in cities like Saskatoon, Calgary and Kelowna worried about the backlash.

Quebec restaurateurs will soon have to decide: the provincial government is preparing to launch a passport vaccination program on September 1. This will limit the ability of unvaccinated people to access spaces such as restaurants, bars, gyms and event venues.

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San Francisco will be the first city in North America to officially enforce a proof of vaccination policy to access certain businesses and public spaces. The term will begin Aug. 20, but it’s also one of many U.S. cities that have reinstated indoor face coverings over the past month.

Additionally, New York City officials announced last week that they will soon be activating a bylaw that will require individuals to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before being allowed to dine at the indoor, see a theatrical production, go to a gymnasium and more.

Seeing culinary hotspots like these start to crack again in the name of public safety gives the impression that a return to normalcy will be short-lived.

“No matter where you look, we’ve seen the fallout from this stuff over the past year and a half when [restrictions relax] too early. While that sounds great for a few weeks or months – regardless of the timeframe for different provinces – it was also quickly followed by more severe limitations than we were receiving before, ”said Mottola.

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