Ottawa

Western Quebec businesses relieved as vaccine passport ends

Several businesses in western Quebec say they're relieved COVID-19 public health measures are lifting and they no longer have to check vaccine passports. 

Capacity limits have also been dropped across the province

On March 12, Quebec dropped the need for people to show vaccine passports at big-box stores, restaurants, cinemas, bars and other public places. The system had been in place since last September. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Several businesses in western Quebec say they're relieved COVID-19 public health measures are lifting and they no longer have to check vaccine passports. 

On March 12, Quebec dropped its mandatory vaccine passports at big-box stores, restaurants, cinemas, bars and other public places. The system had been in place since September 2021.

Capacity limits in all public places in Quebec are also gone. Dancing and karaoke are allowed again. 

The elimination of the passports has made work smoother and staff happier, says Lélia Bâcle, public relations and marketing director with Old Chelsea Square, which represents several establishments in Chelsea, Que.

She said the Chelsea Pub, one of those establishments, was full all day on the first day passes were no longer needed. 

"[There's] no more traffic at the door. It's more fluid when people are entering … It seems like everyone is looking forward [to] what is coming, and that's a great first step for a normal life," said Bâcle. 

'Time to go there'

So far, Bâcle said, the Old Chelsea Square businesses aren't hearing concerns from clientele. 

Employees are still wearing masks and so are customers when they're not seated, she said, while hand sanitizer is also still available.

"The government told us it was OK to not ask for [the passport] anymore. For now we don't have any concerns. I think it was time to go there," said Bâcle. 

Bâcle said businesses are still recovering financially from COVID-19 lockdowns and reduced capacity limits, so loosening the rules makes a huge difference for the bottom line.

"It has been really hard on the restaurant industry," she said. "We need 100 per cent of the customers to be able to run the restaurant."

At Gatineau, Que., restaurant and bar Le Forum, manager Macy Mousalem said she's delighted that there are now fewer restrictions and is looking forward to welcoming back customers who stayed away because of them.

"We're very, very excited about that. We've been in lockdown for so long. The business has really suffered," said Mousalem. 

Reminding customers to show vaccine passports has been a time-consuming responsibility for her employees, Mousalem said.

"It's not fun for us and it's not fun for the clients, right? We don't like to discipline," she said. "We had to, but we are really happy that we don't have to do that anymore."

Macy Mousalem, manager at Gatineau, Que., restaurant and bar Le Forum, said the business has suffered during the pandemic. She's now looking forward to welcoming back customers who have stayed away. (Radio-Canada)

Ended in Ontario March 1

Eliminating the vaccine passport is a sign to people that things are returning to normal, said Dominic Morin, who opened Koena Spa in Gatineau's Aylmer sector right in the middle of the pandemic.

"They're not afraid anymore," said Morin. "People were afraid [when we were in the] red zone and the opening, the closing. I think now we're just going back to normal life."

Koena Spa can now welcome back customers at 100 per cent capacity as COVID-19 health restrictions ease. (Submitted by Hugo Fontaine)

Morin said that as a new business, he didn't qualify for government supports — despite having to open and close numerous times over the past two years.

Despite the relief from business owners at the Quebec government's plan, reactions have been mixed among politicians and health experts.

In Ontario, vaccine certificates and indoor capacity limits were lifted March 1.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

With files from Radio-Canada's Rosalie Sinclair

now