Find out which Calgary businesses will require vaccine passports after bylaw OK'd by council

Calgary city council approved a bylaw Wednesday that brings in consistent application of the province's vaccine passport program for many types of businesses, including $500-fines for violations.

$500 fines for violations, identification same as the province's system

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city has launched a mobile vaccination effort to help in the fight against COVID-19. (CBC)

Calgary city council approved a bylaw Wednesday that brings in consistent application of the province's vaccine passport program for many types of businesses.

This means a proof-of-vaccination system is now required for certain businesses, including restaurants, bars, casinos, and movie theaters.

Previously, Calgary businesses could choose whether or not they want to participate in the province's system. 

The identification required will be the same as the province's system — an immunization record with the name, type of vaccine and date of administration; or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours; or a vaccine medical exemption letter. 

The new bylaw says failure to present one of these documents when entering applicable businesses could result in a $500 fine. Businesses that let in people without the required papers could also be fined $500. 

Peace officers can enforce rules

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the bylaw also gives city peace officers the ability to enforce the rules. 

The bylaw doesn't apply to restaurants that only offer takeout, delivery or drive-thru services. 

    The bylaw was passed at what would normally have been the last council meeting before the municipal election. 

    "The orders that have been issued have been so confusing, so unclear, that they've forced local businesses and municipalities to make up their own mind," he said. 

    The new bylaw comes into effect Thursday. 

    "Our system is at capacity, we have to work hard to get people vaccinated," Nenshi said. 

    "A lot of businesses felt that leaving it up to them, making it sound like they were the ones making the decision was leaving them open to belligerent and angry people. Now they can say it's a city bylaw, they have no choice," he said. 

    The vote was 13-1, with Coun. Jeromy Farkas being the only vote against.

    Farkas said he thinks council shouldn't create another set of rules on top of what he says is already a complicated program. 

    "I think we need to work with the province to fix the current system, rather than increase confusion for citizens and businesses who are already struggling to comply," he said. 

    Business owners react 

    Joanna Ashton is a part-owner at The Hidden Spot in Calgary. She says she wishes a vaccine passport was introduced sooner. 

    "It's not going anywhere, it's life now," she said. 

    "It's already been really brutal for the last nearly two years operating a small business, so now to police this vaccination thing, when we should have, I think, implemented something even way before last week," she said.

    Mike Shupenia, owner Side Street Pub and Grill, says he hired a company to do rapid COVID-19 testing at his business. 

    Calgarians react as city bylaw requires vaccine passport

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    "We had a lot of regulars that didn't want to be vaccinated, but we still want to keep all of our other patrons safe," he said.

    City businesses that are now required to have a vaccine passport system include: 

    • Restaurants, bars and pubs.
    • Nightclubs. 
    • Casinos, bingo halls and VLT lounges. 
    • Entertainment or recreation centres, including bowling alleys, racing entertainment facilities, arcades, billiard halls and other similar establishments.
    • Museums and art galleries. 
    • Movie theatres. 
    • Recreation facilities.
    • Conference halls. 
    • Public facilities where weddings or funerals are held. 
    • Professional sport events. 
    • Professional performance events. 
    • Facilities where adult sport activities take place. 
    • Facilities where recreational activity classes are held. 

    Vaccine outreach program 

    Alberta has only two mobile vaccination vehicles to cover the entire province — something several city council members have said is just not good enough. 

    So, the city began a vaccine outreach program on Tuesday, with a mobile vaccination bus that visited Western Canada High School and the Marlborough Community Association. The mayor said more details on the program would be announced on Wednesday.

    "We will have a number of vehicles going to targeted areas, to reach targeted groups where vaccine rates are low and try and build that up over the next couple of weeks here," he said.

    Nenshi said the city has sent requests to the provincial and federal governments for support, but "he wasn't going to wait around for their approval processes" before taking action. 

    The city is in a state of local emergency due to the high COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations. Of the province's nearly 21,000 cases, more than 5,400 are in Calgary. There are 262 people in hospital in the city with COVID-19. 

    With files from Scott Dippel, Sarah Rieger, and Lucie Edwardson


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