Vaccine passport system seems to be working — but businesses ask why capacity is rising for sports, and not them

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As Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine passport kicked into gear, Luigi Montilla felt it could take a significant chunk out of his membership’s bottom line.

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After Passport’s first full weekend goes into effect, Joe, the co-owner of Rockhead’s rock-climbing gym, is pleasantly surprised.

“Maybe we had four people cancel their memberships. Even they were quite smart about it. ‘We know you have to follow the rules,’ “Montilla said.


Not that he was happy with the cancellations after being closed for more than the past 18 months, but Montilla said they didn’t come in much compared to new customers.

“It was more than made up by the others to come. It was a great weekend,” said Montilla, who credits Passport for promoting. “I think it would make more people feel comfortable coming.”

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As of last Wednesday, anyone who wants to participate in a wide variety of non-essential indoor activities — including going to the gym, eating out indoors or attending a concert or sporting event — has been vaccinated and approved by the government. Issued proof needs to be provided. Identification.

While there was an angry anti-vaccine protest outside the Eaton Center in which two people were arrested, Montilla and other business owners said it was mostly smooth sailing. For some, business has picked up.

“It was slower than pre-COVID, but it was much busier than recently,” said Selina Blanchard, owner of Roncevels’ favorite Lambretta pizzeria.

At College Street’s Octopus Garden yoga studio, not much changed this weekend as customers have been asked to provide proof of vaccinations since mid-August, operations manager Alison Kroczynski said.

But there’s no doubt, Kroczynski said, that customers are happy to return for in-person classes instead of online classes.

Kroczynski said, “We start to have tears when people come in. For most of the last 18 months, it’s been virtual.”

While there was some online pushback for the vaccine mandate, Krozinski said it was not coming from Octopus Garden’s customers.

“We got a little bit of pushback on Instagram when we announced it, but it was mostly from people in Europe and America,” Krozinski said.

Yet, even for businesses that saw their bottom line increase, there was still frustration with the passport system. One particular sticking point? Given the capacity limit for professional sports teams such as the Blue Jays, Leafs and Raptors, restaurants, bars and gyms are still limited at 50 percent capacity.

“It’s very disappointing that they’re ramping up capacity for big companies like sports teams, but small businesses like ours have to stay at 50 percent. That’s not fair,” Blanchard said.

Last week, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said that 80 percent of eligible people in Ontario had been double vaccinated, raising the cap for indoor sporting events to 50 percent or 10,000 people (whichever is smaller). ) was done. and 75 percent of the capacity for outdoor events.

The last time the Leafs were played at the Scotiabank Arena, only 550 fans were allowed in the stands.

Ryan Mallow, Ontario regional director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said this seems like a double standard for many CFIB members.

“They don’t understand why Dr. Moore is calling this milestone, it means we can open the biggest locations, but the smallest businesses are still stuck at 50 percent,” Mallow said.

Small business owners, Mallow said, are still digging under a mountain of debt that has sunk during the COVID-19 pandemic, and were hoping for some easing of capacity restrictions as passports were introduced.

Blanchard agreed, and says keeping up with the bills is going to be a lot harder for Lambretta and many other restaurants.

“Subsidies are running out, and patio season is coming to an end. But I still have to pay 100 percent of my rent,” Blanchard said.

josh rubin Toronto-based business reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @starbeer

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