Pub manager Crystal Meikl is used to with relocation rules for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Ontario’s proof-of-vaccination policy, set to go into effect on Wednesday, moves into new territory, she said, as workers will be asked to show customers they are immunized against the virus.
“Pushback is where I get a little nervous,” Mickle said on a recent afternoon shift at the Queen’s Head pub in east Toronto. “It’s unknown how someone is going to react.”
Last week the province outlined its guidelines for businesses required to make checks. Patrons at dine-in restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, sports facilities and other locations must present a receipt of full vaccination and identification. Doctors’ notes will also be accepted for medical exemption.
Fines are on the table for businesses that don’t follow up with checks and for patrons who provide false information. But businesses, by-law officers, police forces and the province say enforcement will remain gentle until the policy’s impact begins to show on the ground – with much of the heavy lifting for businesses’ frontline workers.
Several Ontario police forces contacted by The Canadian Press indicated that they would respond to safety-related calls regarding threats or violence but would not actively enforce or check for compliance with the vaccination policy.
A spokesman for Ontario’s solicitor general said the province does not expect police to conduct “routine compliance checks” of vaccination receipts.
Joe Cotto, communications director for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, said police forces would wait for calls related to the policy before deciding whether to redeploy or adjust resources.
“The question I’ve been asked is whether the police will need to shift new resources or resources to deal with the rollout of certification,” he said. “The short answer is, we don’t really know, because the province is still developing not only its policies, but exactly how it will work.”
The enforcement body responsible for issuing non-compliance tickets would be the by-law officers. In Toronto, the city said it will take an “educational approach” with businesses as the new rules go into effect. It asked people to be respectful and to call 311 with non-compliance concerns.
A Labor Ministry spokesman said inspectors would also visit affected settings, “adopting education-first methods to help workers and the public stay safe and keep businesses open.”
On the ground, businesses spent the last week deciding how they would assign employees to the task of checking vaccination status.
Venues that sell alcohol are used to ID checking, but pub manager Michal said the vaccine receipt requirement could take some time to get used to for staff and customers.
She said the job could fall for employees who greet people in different sections at the bar or when customers come to sit.
People will be required to show paper or digital immunization receipts until next month, when the province has promised a QR code with individuals’ vaccination records and an app for businesses to verify them – Meikle said he plans to follow the policy. was ready for launch.
About the QR code, she said, “I think it will be very easy and helpful for us to manage it.”
Gavin Holmes, owner of Jio Rana’s restaurant, said that the hosting staff will check the vaccination proof.
It’s the latest addition to the workforce during the pandemic, but Holmes said staff shortages in the industry make it difficult to bring in more people on shifts.
“It would be great to employ someone else, but that’s not possible right now,” he said in the dining room of his Toronto establishment.
He said his business wants to comply as expected.
“We’re basically taking it in our stride,” he said. “We fully support what we have to do as long as we can stay open.”
The necessary staffing tactic will play out differently depending on the type of business.
James Rilet, vice president of Restaurants Canada, said some quick-service establishments that usually don’t have someone working at the door are considering bringing in another staff member each shift to check for proof of vaccination.
Those who can’t afford it are considering not opening their dining rooms at all, he said, adding that the idea is tough for restaurants already struggling with finances after a year of closure.
“They can’t afford it, but they really can’t afford not to be open,” Rilett said over the phone.
Health Minister Christine Elliott and Toronto Mayor John Tory have both said they do not expect non-compliance to be a major issue.
Mickle said he hoped patrons at his pub would respond well, as he would have to make changes to the previous rule. But she said the sensitive topic of vaccination will be a new conversation with many regular customers.
“I think we’ll cross that bridge when we come to that,” she said.