St. Lawrence Market is closing indoor dining in the face of vaccine passports. And they’re not alone

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Some Ontario restaurants are now closing their indoor dining spaces because vaccine passports have been implemented.

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Among them is Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market, which cites the difficulty of implementing the system as a major reason for its decision. The historic market, known for both its grocery options and its various prepared food offerings, will direct customers outside if they are hoping to eat at the location.

Given its hybrid grocery and dining model, the market sees a particular difficulty in implementing Passport. Doing so can logistically be “quite challenging,” said Samantha Wills, a spokeswoman for the market: when it comes to carrying people essential groceries, but it’s also an attraction for leisure trips and meals; Applying a vaccine passport would mean checking everyone entering the facility, even if they plan to eat there.


“Someone might come to St. Lawrence Market with the intention of just having some cheese or some fresh fruit, and then decide when they are going to dine on site,” she said. On a typical weekend, Wills said, the market draws from 8,000 to 10,000 visitors in a single day.

Wills said he consulted with market vendors before adopting the new measures and most were in favor. Overall, he said, the sellers just want to ensure that there is no hindrance for those who are buying essential goods or taking takeout.

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Customer feedback has been positive so far, Wills said, although some are disappointed they can’t eat inside. “I think once customers understand the rationale for us eliminating indoor dining, they see that it makes a lot of sense.”

Wills stressed that the decision to offer only outside food was not due to opposition to the vaccine passport.

Lawrence market move is not unique, and other restaurants in Ontario are following suit. Vaccine passports are posing a logistical challenge for some establishments, with operators saying they don’t think they have the proper equipment to screen visiting customers for their vaccination status.

The seating area outside the market will be open to customers who wish to dine nearby.

Keri Ladousier-Renick, who runs Apollo Grill in Peterborough, is among restaurant owners to temporarily decline indoor dining because of vaccine passports.

Restaurant staff said they were “fearing” the introduction of Vaccine Passport, Ladousier-Renick said, adding that they felt businesses were not given the proper tools to implement the new system. As a business owner, Ladousir-Renick realized that the restaurant had to take control of the situation.

Many of the employees are young, Ladousir-Renick said, and some are teenagers who are working for the first time. He said the prospect of asking for proof of vaccination was troubling him, as he does not have the training to recognize photoshopped or edited vaccine passports and are Customers were concerned about the prospect if they were refused.

The restaurant will continue to be reevaluated, Ladousir-Renick said. “We are not making any statements right now… we will see what it looks like in a month from now (October 22), when there are other changes,” she said, adding that they will “check the climate” to see if the patron year. At the end of the day want to dine inside.

At Stubby Goat in Wallaceburg, near Chatham, owner-operator Jason Debeck is also preparing to shut down indoor service. For them, the decision hinged on not discriminating between those who have been vaccinated and those who are not. His staff, Debak said, did not feel a responsibility to ask people about their vaccination status and felt it should be handled by the Ontario government.

“They didn’t want to participate,” he said. “We’ve just decided that the best thing for us is to stop indoor dining.” When the passport system rolled out on Wednesday, Debak claimed that 90% of the customers who came to the restaurant were not vaccinated.

Debak said that he himself was denied vaccination. “I can serve people at my restaurant meals, but I can’t even sit down and have a drink or a meal at my own restaurant because I haven’t been vaccinated.”

Dorcas Marfo. with files of
Jenna Moon is a breaking news reporter for Star and is based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @_jennamoon
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