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Restaurants weather wave of hostility to Ontario’s vaccine passport

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on September 24, 2021 with No Comments

Once the passport becomes the norm, the hope is aggressive incidents will die down.

Gayna Martyniuk wasn’t expecting things to go smoothly when she opened her coffee shop on the first day of Ontario’s vaccine passport, but she also wasn’t expecting the hostility she got. 

Around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, a man walked into Cafe Bean in Perth, Ont., without a mask and past a sign saying proof of COVID-19 vaccination was required. 

When he refused to show proof, Martyniuk asked him to wait outside while she got his order. 

He quickly became belligerent, telling her the constitution required he consent to not being served and that he would sue her.

“People like you need to be just eradicated. You’re a horrible person,” the man can be heard saying in the surveillance video. And it was blurred t and face of the customer because he has not been identified.

“He stormed out and he slammed the door so hard that I thought he was going to break a few windows. And that was the end of it,” Martyniuk told.

Before the man left, Martyniuk said she told him she was following the Ontario government’s new rules and that she couldn’t be fined  if she didn’t.

She says she gave his order for two coffees and a breakfast sandwich to the person he came in with. 

“I didn’t really feel safe coming in by myself [Thursday] morning, so I locked myself in this morning, before I opened.” 

Martyniuk said she’s lost other regular customers who haven’t been vaccinated, and with the high number of seniors in Perth, many customers have been too cautious to return.  

Restaurant association expects incidents to wane

James Rilett, a vice-president with Restaurants Canada, says Martyniuk’s approach — focusing on de-escalation — was the right one.

When  mask mandates were implemented earlier in the pandemic, businesses also saw a surge of aggression that eventually calmed down, Rilett said.

He’s hoping the number of incidents drops off again, as those against the new rules wear themselves out. 

“Unfortunately, we’re in a situation now where some people don’t want to be calmed down. They want to make a point, and they’re taking it out on people that have absolutely nothing to do with the decision making,” Rilett said. 

These incidents have been the exception, Rilett said, and most customers have been accepting of the passport.

He said he’s heard of several instances where patrons stood up for the restaurant and their staff by calling out the irate customer, but that’s “not ideal either.”

“Then you have customers getting into a confrontation between each other,” Rilett said. “And that rarely ends well.” 

The barrage, Rilett said, is also happening online. His organization is reaching out to review sites like Yelp, in order to help businesses delete negative reviews posted by people opposed to proving their vaccination status.

While he worries about the time it might take for bylaw or police to respond to an incident, Rilett says restaurants’ biggest concerns are financial, after a year and a half of less than ideal operating conditions.


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