Province's lack of leadership means Sask. businesses on their own: Broadway Theatre executive director

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, businesses across the province are having to decide whether to keep some safety measures in place despite the province lifting all restrictions.

Chamber of commerce survey finds businesses split on restrictions like vaccine passports

The Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon will continue to require patrons to wear masks for now. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, businesses across the Saskatchewan are having to decide whether to keep some safety measures in place despite the province lifting all restrictions.

This week, Amigos Cantina in Saskatoon announced concerts at the venue will only allow audience members who are fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, Live Nation Canada said it is going to require vaccination proof or negative test at concerts.

Kirby Wirchenko, artistic and executive director at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon, said the theatre will continue to keep some restrictions in place and that he understands why Amigo's made their decision.

"What those guys did was make a decision that is for their patrons," Wirchenko told Saskatoon Morning's Leisha Grebinski. "It's for their staff, it's for the artists who come and play through their venue and for the wider community they're a part of."

Broadway Theatre executive director Kirby Wirchenko says the business will continue to require masks and have reduced capacity. (David Shield/CBC)

Wirchenko said the Broadway will continue to make masks mandatory and reduce capacity to ensure social distance for the foreseeable future.

He's upset the province is not offering more leadership as the fourth wave of the pandemic sweeps across the province.

"We had a (Saskatchewan) Roughriders game twice now … and I was shocked to not see our current premier [Scott Moe] land in the middle of that game during half-time on a helicopter, in a military suit with a banner that said Mission Accomplished," Wirchenko said. "Our government has acted as though everything is done now. That we can just walk away and dust our hands."

LISTEN | Kirby Wirchenko spoke with host Leisha Grebinski on Saskatoon Morning 

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce did a survey on mandating restrictions, like having a vaccine passport, and found it to be a divisive issue for its members, Steve McLellan, the chamber's CEO, told Stefani Langenegger on The Morning Edition.

Of the 369 businesses that responded to the survey, 43 per cent said a vaccine passport was a good idea and 41 per cent said no. 

"We had over 200 comments, everything across the spectrum — reasons for, reasons against — were given to us. So this is an issue where there is not a consensus among the business community," McLellan said.

Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve McLellan says its members are split when it comes to vaccine passports. (CBC News)

Business owners have to make decisions for the good of their staff, customers and sustaining their business, said McLellan, adding that might mean deciding to have certain restrictions like masking even if they are not legally required.

He said people also have make a decision for themselves.

"If you work in a place that has no mask mandate, it's up to you to determine if indeed you want to wear a mask," McLellan said. "It's up to us then collectively to respect those decisions. If a server in a restaurant has not been requested by the owner to wear a mask, and they choose to, as a customer, we should respect that."

Wirchenko said the onus is on individual businesses to come up with solutions, because the province is not stepping up to the plate.

He said many of the small to medium business owners he knows are mandating vaccination, as Amigos is.

"It's just not everyone announces it. They put it on the sign at the front door. They put it on their social media, they put it on their website," he said. "And whether you're a retailer or a restaurant or a nightclub or a venue or a plumbing supply place, the onus is on all of us to be responsible within our community."

McLellan said the business community has adhered to direction from health officials like the province's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.

"At this point in time, their analysis of the data would suggest that it's not necessary to take further protocols," McLellan said.

"When they do, we would certainly as a business community, as a chamber, we would very much encourage our members to do what they've asked."

McLellan said he hopes people will not only respect each other, but also wear masks and take other precautions when the situation calls for it.

"Just because the government hasn't said it doesn't mean it's not a good idea."

With files from Saskatoon Morning and The Morning Edition


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