Ontario’s new vaccine passport plan might lock the front door of Toronto’s bars to the unvaccinated, but it leaves the patio door open for them.
Call it the patio pass? Call it learning from previous lessons.
Whatever you call it, with today’s better covered and heated patios, it means non-vaccinated patrons will still be able to dine, have a beer and watch a game.
“I see it as good news,” said Tim Brem, of Timothy’s Pub on Brown’s Line.
When the Ford government announced the COVID-19 vaccine passport system will begin Sept. 22, they made sure that patios were exempt, while also allowing masked patrons to use the restrooms.
“I totally agree with it,” said Brem. “You don’t want to see the creation of an ugly, segregated society because that is not what the hospitality industry is all about.”
Of course, it would be better to not require what really amounts to special licencing for movement in society, but since that is not in the cards, this move seems to find the right balance.
The people inside restaurants need to comply with the verification regime while takeout and patio patrons can still partake as customers. Businesses are allowed to serve all patrons.
“It’s a compromise that I think will appeal to all parties,” said Brem.
Tony Elenis, president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, agreed there are “complexities” that need to be addressed and said he thinks it’s a positive the province has learned from previous lockdowns.
As far as the passports — and the eventual QR codes people will need to produce — Elenis said his 12,000 members are in agreement because they want to avoid more of the lockdowns that have ravaged the industry.
“We say let’s move with it if it will stimulate growth in our industry.”
That said, there is a reality that his members are small businesses with small profit margins and not policing agencies.
“There will need to be government support big time,” said Elenis. “One thing that would help is a national (passport) standard.”
For Brem, the bottom line is small operators should not be faced with policing passport violations and governments need to understand that simply saying “call 911” to stop potential conflicts is not realistic.
Pub owners, he said, want people to come in, and have a good time while enjoying drinks and food.
Elenis agreed: “Hospitality is supposed to be fun.”
Having people arguing over vaccine passports is not fun.
But the Ford government has found a way to have a pass for vaccinated people while allowing others to opt out.