Nova Scotia

Some N.S. businesses anxious about enforcing province's new proof-of-vaccine policy

Some Nova Scotia business owners say they're anxious about the added pressure the province's new proof-of-vaccine policy will put on staff who now need to check people's records. 

Hospitality staff are becoming 'health-care bouncers,' says one business owner

Oct. 4 marked the first day of Nova Scotia's new proof-of-vaccine policy. (Adrien Blanc/CBC-Radio Canada)

Some Nova Scotia business owners say they're anxious about the added pressure the province's new proof-of-vaccine policy will put on staff who now need to check people's records at the door. 

As of Monday, people who want to visit non-essential services, such as restaurants, bars, gyms and other venues, must prove they've received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by showing a paper or digital record, plus their ID. There are medical exemptions.  

People don't need to show proof for essential venues, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and health-care services. Details about the new policy can be found here.

"Certainly we understand why it's happening and we support everybody chipping in to help get this behind us, but it is very frustrating right now," Chris Reynolds, the co-owner of Stillwell Beergarden, told CBC News at Six.  

He said making sure customers abide by the mask mandate has already been challenging for staff, who can sometimes face rude and unruly customers who disagree with the public health rules. 

"And now the government's asking our staff to be kind of health-care bouncers and check a lot of paperwork at the door," Reynolds said. 

Chris Reynolds, the co-owner of Stillwell Beergarden on Spring Garden Road in Halifax, said it's been a very challenging 18 months for businesses like his. (CBC)

People in the hospitality industry have struggled to keep enough staff during the pandemic and Reynolds expects he may need to hire more people to check people's records. 

Scanners that can read the QR codes on people's vaccination records are expected to be ready for businesses to use near the end of October.

Lil MacPherson, the founder and co-owner of The Wooden Monkey restaurants, said there will be "a big learning curve" for staff enforcing the new policy.

"We've got a lot to take on. The servers are like bouncers now," she told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon on Monday.

On Sunday, before the new policy came into effect, MacPherson said a staff member at The Wooden Monkey was yelled at by customers, some of whom refused to wear masks.

It prompted the restaurant's owners to write a post on Facebook, calling out the customers' behaviour and saying harassment won't be tolerated.

"You have the right to believe whatever you want to believe in, just make sure you protest in the proper way, a safe way, and don't harass innocent people, hospitals, restaurants," she said.

MacPherson urged people who take issue with the rules to protest at the Nova Scotia Legislature, not local businesses.

Lil MacPherson co-owns The Wooden Monkey restaurants in Halifax and Dartmouth. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Jackie Turner, owner of East Peak Climbing on Quinpool Road, said while she worries about people venting their frustration at staff, she also believes the new policy will be good for business because more people will feel comfortable coming into the gym.

On the first day of the new rules, members of the climbing gym showed their records and ID once and could choose to have the information added to their profiles so they don't have to show it again.

For climber Bob Eastwood, it was an easy step that gave him more peace of mind. 

"It's nice to be able to walk into a place and know it's safe," he said. 

Jackie Turner runs East Peak Climbing on Quinpool Road in Halifax. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

On Monday, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said businesses and people who don't abide by the new policies could face substantial fines.  

75 per cent of Nova Scotians fully vaccinated

There are now just over 75 per cent of Nova Scotians who've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But Robert Blotnicky, who runs Halifax Buy and Sell, said the new policy hasn't convinced him to get the jab. 

"I honestly feel like a second-class citizen in my country and I feel like I'm being ostracized. I feel like I'm being villainized, and it doesn't make any sense to me," he said.

Strang has said it's unvaccinated people who are driving the fourth wave in Nova Scotia and putting pressure on the health-care system across the country. 

"With the fourth wave all around us, and here in Nova Scotia ... if we're going to allow larger numbers of people to get together, we have to do it in a way that only brings vaccinated people together," Strang said.

With files from CBC Radio's Maritime Noon, Preston Mulligan and Tom Murphy