It’s five days since Nova Scotia implemented its COVID-19 policy for vaccination against non-essential services, such as gyms, bars and restaurants.
Since Monday, people who want to eat at restaurants have been required to prove they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by showing a paper or digital mail plus their ID.
Portia Clark, host of CBC Radio’s Information tomorrow, spoke with Gordon Stewart, head of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, last Friday about how restaurants are handling the new policy.
This discussion has been edited for length and clarity.
What have you generally heard from your membership?
In general, it went relatively smoothly. There are certainly many hiccups when we introduce something new like this to the sector, so there were some hiccups throughout the province.
We had people show up with their vaccination certificate but did not have identification because they assumed they did not need to have it, so that meant they were not allowed to be in the restaurant, which of course caused some frustration with some customers.
There are some issues still hanging out there and I expect they are likely to continue in the next week or so.
Have you heard anything about people showing up without proof of vaccination and insisting that they sit?
There have definitely been some of them. Some people were not aware of the rules at all, which is surprising. But again, they learn very quickly that they have to have it to get in.
One of the things that is different than when we were last limited more at restaurants [is] there are several sectors limited now, like major events like hockey matches and Wanderer Grounds and theaters – you need to have proof of vaccination plus your ID.
It makes a huge difference. Now more people are prepared for it.
I have heard of at least one case where the RCMP was to be called. How common has it been?
It is not common, but certainly we have had to have police and law enforcement to intervene. In some cases, some people would not leave, and in some cases, the restaurant did not take the proof of vaccination or ID, so there is a bit of trouble on both sides of the fence.
Can restaurants keep a list of their regular customers’ vaccination records so they don’t have to show proof every time?
Yes it is OK. It is reasonable that if you have regular good customers and you [check] them in terms of their proof of vaccination plus their id then you can keep a record of it. Afterwards, you accept the responsibility as owner or operator that they have already been tested before.
How have you, as the restaurant association, helped restaurants deal with the anxiety, but also the actual situations they may be confronted with?
It’s not easy when hiring waiters and waitresses – I do not suppose they are meant to be a bouncer or doorman – so it’s an extra effort on their part, and I think it’s stressful for them. It’s not easy for people to do. Some do it better than others, but that’s not why they were hired, so it’s very challenging.
There is a website [workers] can go to too hard customers, for bullying, something like that. We also strongly recommend that they do not engage at all. Like if someone does not want to show their vaccination or even some people who do not want to wear their mask, we say you should not interact with them, just turn around and call the police right away.
Informationsmorgen – NS8:20What does the province’s evidence of vaccination requirements look like in restaurants?
All police departments and the various enforcement authorities are aware of these situations. A few fines have already been handed out, then [customers] will stay in line so they do not get the fine.
How useful is the information on this site regarding dealing with bullies in a restaurant or bar?
That’s pretty good. I believe that good common sense will serve you well too. The biggest thing is the confrontation – do not be in a state of confrontation. There is no value in that. It will not add any value to the situation.
It will only make it worse and it will resolve itself. It may take five minutes and maybe 15 minutes, but they do not get served so they will not stay there forever.
Something that may arise in that situation is that the people who work at the restaurant do not have to prove that they have been vaccinated. The guests do. Is it possibly a source of conflict?
It may be, but it is highly recommended. It is not mandatory to have a vaccine, but we ask for it [employees] have a test before going to the shift. No one should work at a restaurant in Nova Scotia that is either not fully vaccinated or tested before going on shifts.
Why do you not recommend to your membership that they make these COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for staff?
We recommend that no one works in a restaurant [unless they have been vaccinated] or have had the quick test.
What if you walk into a restaurant that you are not asked for your vaccination certificate or identification? What are you going to do about it?
Well, if you are a consumer, I think you should raise this issue. The fine for an operator who does not ask is around $ 7,500. It’s not something you want [not do].
It’s possible that someone might forget to do it, but I do not think it given the circumstances now. It is more likely that they would not do so and it is an offense under the Health Act right now.