Some Manitoba businesses choosing to limit service, not check patrons' vaccine status

Some business owners in Manitoba are opting to partially close or blatantly flout provincial vaccine requirements, worried they infringe on privacy and limit their patrons' right to choose for themselves.

Other businesses feel vaccine mandate will help keep staff and patrons safe

Rocco's Pizza in Steinbach will not offer dine-in options until all Manitobans regardless of vaccine status can enjoy a slice inside. (Submitted by Damian Penner)

Some business owners in Manitoba are opting to partially close or disregard provincial vaccine requirements, worried they infringe on privacy and limit their patrons' right to choose for themselves.

Damian Penner, the owner of Rocco's Pizza in Steinbach, Man., says he's closing his dining room starting on Sept. 3 when the public health orders take effect that require all indoor and outdoor restaurant and bar patrons be fully vaccinated.

"Being in the hospitality industry, we are of service to individuals, and for us that means being equitable and being fair and serving everybody to the same level," he said.

"When you look at there being individuals that you can't service to the same level, but still as a business asking for their support, that's not a business plan that we had ever intended on following through with."

Penner, who is a Steinbach city councillor, says the restaurant will remain open for take-out and deliveries, which will likely hurt the bottom line.

Some businesses feel it's invasive to ask people for proof of their immunization, including the owner of MORFIT. (Rachel Bergen/CBC)

"It is a hit. But that's something that out of respect for all individuals, that's something that we're we're willing to accept," he said.

Penner says the surrounding community has been very supportive of his decision.

Less than half of eligible people in the Hanover health district, which surrounds Steinbach, have been vaccinated. In the city itself, 61 per cent have been vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, 82.1 per cent of eligible people in the province have had one dose of the vaccine and 76.8 per cent have both.

Restaurants aren't the only businesses impacted by the incoming public health orders.

Vaccination is also required for indoor theatre, dance and symphony events, movie theatres, casinos, bingo halls, VLT lounges, nightclubs and all other licensed premises.

Indoor and outdoor ticketed sporting events and concerts will remain exclusive to people who are fully vaccinated.

Children who are too young to be vaccinated are allowed to go to restaurants, theatres and other events with a vaccinated adult.

Proof of vaccination also will be required to visit fitness centres, gyms and indoor sporting and recreational facilities. Youth recreational sports are excluded, but parents, coaches and staff will have to be vaccinated.

The vaccine mandate and reintroduced mask mandate for indoor public spaces are a response to the highly transmissible delta variant, which if left unchecked would overwhelm the province's health-care system, provincial modelling suggests.

One Winnipeg gym owner said on his website staff won't check immunization cards.

Stuart Klassen, the owner of MORFIT, which has a location in St. Boniface and another in City Place, says it would be illegal to ask for this information.

"MORFIT will not be asking for or verifying COVID-19 vaccination status, nor will we be requesting proof of negative medical testing of any kind prior to entering our facilities," he wrote in a letter to gym members.

Klassen declined an interview.

The province says enforcement officials will continue to work with businesses to provide guidance on how to comply with public health orders.

Businesses that violate public health orders can be fined $5,000.

'In the best interest'

Many businesses don't take issue with the public health orders, including another Winnipeg gym.

Michelle Braithwaite, the manager of Fit Club West on Corydon Avenue says she believes the public health orders will help keep people safe.

"If the government is asking that we do this, I truly believe that this is in the best interest of … our members, and for the safety of them and ourselves," she said.

Michelle Braithwaite says she'll check vaccine cards because it will keep her, her staff and the gym members at Fit Club West safe. (Michelle Braithwaite/Facebook)

Only a couple of her gym members have reached out to tell her they aren't fully vaccinated and they are upset with her stance.

"I just let them know that it's not forever. Nothing is forever. And I also let them know that keep your head up and be positive and no matter what, at the end of the day, we here at the club will work with you. We're not trying to work against you," she said.

Braithwaite says she wants to do whatever she can to stay open and avoid another lockdown.

"It's very important to me and my staff, because we're not just your regular gym … you don't sit on a bike and wonder what to do next. The moment that you walk through these doors, we take care of you," she said.

On September 3rd many business owners will be required to ask customers for proof of vaccination

2 months ago
For some that won't be a difficult decision, while others don't like the position it puts them in. 2:18

With files from Sean Kavanagh