Some Ottawa businesses reserving times for vaccinated customers only
Vaccine passport ended March 1, now some opt for hybrid model
Ontario businesses are no longer required to check someone's vaccine status at the door, but some businesses in Ottawa say they plan to reserve times to serve vaccinated customers only.
The province's vaccine certificate system ended March 1 and many businesses have celebrated doing away with the system, which had been in place since the fall. Others have committed to keeping them in place, even without provincial mandates.
Then there are some who have opted for a hybrid approach — remaining open to all customers most days, but reserving certain hours for vaccinated customers only.
The Hintonburg Public House recently announced only those with at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine would be able to attend on Thursdays.
"We do have some older clientele or people with health issues that have been really extra careful this whole time, and we want them to feel as comfortable as possible in the space," said owner Summer Baird.
She said that policy will remain in place until further notice. Depending on demand, Baird would consider expanding those hours.
"We'll just kind of see what the comfort level is and where the numbers are at," she said. "That's really all we can do."
Likewise for Sarah Thompson, owner of Where I Thrive Cafe, a fitness studio and cafe in the Glebe neighbourhood. There will be a select number of classes each week called "booster classes," which will be reserved for clients with at least three doses of the vaccine.
To deal with the uncertainty, there needs to be some creativity,".- Dennis Van Staalduinen, Wellington West BIA
"Ever since we've opened, we've always stood by the mission that we are for everybody," Thompson said.
She said it would be "excluding people in the community" if her studio continued check vaccine status for each visit, or if they completely eliminated checking for proof of vaccination.
"We felt like this was the most inclusive option to stand by."
She said so far customers have given positive feedback on the hybrid model. Thompson plans to keep the classes in place for March, with the possibility of extending them into April.
Catering to both vaccinated and unvaccinated customers is a smart business decision, said Dennis Van Staalduinen, executive director of the Wellington West Business Improvement Area.
Many customers on both sides of the debate have strong opinions on vaccinations and businesses are left in the tough spot of choosing who to cater to.
"To deal with the uncertainty, there needs to be some creativity," Van Staalduinen said.
He said there have been some cases where businesses have announced they will continue checking proof of vaccination and being "attacked by anti-vaccine advocates and robot armies."
Van Staalduinen said moving forward, he's asking customers "for patience and for people to be a little more tolerant" as businesses decide what's best for their operations.