Owners of several restaurants across the Okanagan have been vocal in their opposition to the province’s vaccine card, but the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association (BCRFA) made it clear there will be consequences for establishments that ignore health restrictions.
President and CEO of the BCRFA Ian Tostenson said the association supports the vaccine card system and wants members to follow the public health order so they can keep their doors open and help bring an end to the pandemic.
“We support it because, without this health order, we were really worried we were going to end up, province-wide, going backwards like what happened in Kelowna (this summer),” he said.
“It would’ve gotten worse and we would’ve potentially seen shutdowns like we had last year… the vaccine card is necessary to keep businesses going and equally, as important, to keep our employees employed. It’s been brutal for them as we open and close, and open and close.”
For the most part, the vaccine card rollout has gone well for many BCRFA members but the organization has received calls about a handful of Okanagan restaurants that won’t be following the order to check for vaccination status for dine-in customers.
Kelowna’s Renegade Kitchen & Craft Bar and Ricco Bambino, and Penticton’s Bad Tattoo Brewing are just some of the establishments that have been very vocal from the beginning that they stand against the vaccine card and that they won’t be checking vaccination status.
Renegade said in social media posts they’re “not in the business of asking for or discussing your private health info.”
Tostenson said that while business owners are free to choose whether to implement or not implement the vaccine card at their restaurant, they need to be aware of the consequences of those actions.
“If they continue to not follow the provincial order, eventually, the government’s going to catch up with them,” he said.
“They’ll face a penalty and/or they will face closure. We at the BCRFA support that because we’re trying to do something here for the health of British Columbia. We’re not trying to make people mad or isolate them but at the same time, 99 per cent of businesses in B.C. are trying in earnest to do what they think is going to help B.C.”
Tostenson added the BCRFA supports all restaurants but when some of them are breaking provincial laws, it’s difficult to defend them.
“We don’t like it either. No restaurant in B.C. wants to ask for proof of vaccination… but the tradeoff to getting restaurants in Kelowna back to operating hours was this. Dr. Henry said we’ll bring in the vaccine cards so you can operate as normal, which is great,” he said.
He said the restaurants who refuse to operate under the vaccination program may have supporters, but they are a minority and at the end of the day, they’ll have to deal with their reputation for not following public health orders, losing out on more business in the long run.
“It’s not going to end well. They will be eventually closed or fined. Your reputation as a business that defied protocols, I’m not so sure that reputation long-term is going to serve you well,” he said.