Enjoying a beverage on a restaurant patio in Port Alberni comes with some new COVID-19 conditions as of Sept. 13, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Enjoying a beverage on a restaurant patio in Port Alberni comes with some new COVID-19 conditions as of Sept. 13, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Island businesses grapple with threats as new COVID-19 vaccine passports start

‘These things are beyond our control…there is no option to opt out.’

The provincial government’s vaccine passport program is putting small businesses at risk, says a Vancouver Island business leader.

After consultation with board members, Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Bill Collette drafted a letter to B.C. health minister Adrian Dix on Sept. 1 outlining their concerns about the program, asking the province to rethink the rollout.

“We’re not in disagreement with the vaccine passport, but we are in disagreement with the way they’re rolling it out—putting 18- and 19-year-old frontline people at significant risk,” Collette said.

“It points to our real concern about safety of our local employees.”

As of Sept. 13 the provincial health officer will require certain events, services and businesses to ask patrons for proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to gain entry. Anyone wanting to enter these businesses will have to have had at least one COVID-19 vaccination, and will have to have had both of them by Oct. 24.

The new health order was put in place to try and curb a rising number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. This order will remain in place until the end of January 2022.

Collette said he doesn’t feel like the government is listening to small businesses and the concerns they have with enforcing a vaccine passport.

“This is really difficult for these business owners. To put these poor people in this kind of position is ill-conceived.

“To put it on the backs of the Twin City Brewings and the Clam Buckets and businesses like that in our opinion is poorly thought out.”

The Clam Bucket was subject of a veiled threat last week on a Facebook group formed to find out which businesses in the Alberni Valley may not be asking for vaccine passports. No one at the restaurant wanted to talk on the record, but management posted on the Clam Bucket’s Facebook page about the “disturbing” day they had after learning about the threat.

“To say we have been nervous about the upcoming vaccine passports is an understatement,” they posted.

“These things are beyond our control, we did not vote on this, there is no option to opt out.”

READ: Which businesses require proof of vaccination?

Aaron Colyn of Twin City Brewing decided to be direct with his customers. He posted on the craft brewery’s Facebook page that beginning this week, all dine-in guests over the age of 12 will be required to present proof of vaccination along with a piece of government-issued ID if over the age of 19. “We’ve seen neighbouring businesses threatened with violence because they plan to follow the provincial order and there is a general sense of unease with our team regarding upcoming interactions with the public,” he wrote. “We ask for your patience and understanding going forwards.”

Colyn said there have been numerous discussions about the changes, including among the BC Craft Brewers Guild. Other breweries have taken to social media to give their customers advance notice, and some, like Dog Mountain Brewing in Port Alberni, are taking a couple of days off to give their staff a break.

“We felt it was going to be less hard on our team to give advance notice what people can expect from us next week,” Colyn said. “We knew there was going to be push-back online but we thought making people aware that if they’re not willing to go along with what’s been directed for businesses they should know ahead of time.

“There has been a climate here in town that has been difficult to navigate,” he added. “We want to stay open.”

Other businesses have followed Twin City Brewing’s lead and taken to social media to advise customers that come Sept. 13 they will be following public health orders. Some, like RHM Donair and Subs, have switched to takeout only. The vaccination passport rule does not apply to restaurants not offering table service.

Business owners or event organizers face a fine of $2,300 if they are found to have violated the provincial health order. There are also fines of $230 or $575 for individuals who violate the orders.

CoronavirusPort AlberniSmall Business