At one waterfront restaurant in Sidney, patrons are still required to show their proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
“These days, you can’t afford to have too many staff gone because we’re all struggling for staffing, so I felt I needed to protect them,” said Bill Singer.
“I want them to stay well.”
But the Rumrunner Restaurant & Pub owner says he’s also keeping the requirement in place as an added layer of protection for his customers, locals and tourists alike.
Singer says he opened his restaurant 32 years ago this June and has grown to know his regulars quite well.
“Sidney has a large retirement community. I’ve been here a long time, and I know some of my customers have health issues,” he said.
“I just did it because I felt it was a good thing to do in my community.”
Latest Statistics Canada census data found that nearly 12,000 people live in the seaside town, with more than 6,500 over the age of 55.
But keeping the vaccine card in place comes with its ups and downs. In fact, it’s spurring quite the mix of reactions from the public.
“Anti-vaxxers have trolled me,” recalled Singer.
“I’ve been trolled heavily, given one-star ratings on Google, and called some very ugly things. I’ve been told I would get sued, that I was breaking the law.”
And the negative feedback has made its way offline as well. According to Singer, people have been abusive at the door.
“We’ve tried to handle it as politely as possible, but it’s been a little disconcerting,” he said.
Despite the challenge, Singer’s staying positive.
“Many people have been very, very supportive. We’ve had some positive responses and very nice comments from people visiting from Vancouver and Victoria.”
“So there’s been the good side of it too,” he said.
Considering local demographics, BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association president Ian Tostenson is applauding Singer, saying he’s “very tuned into his local audience.”
“I think it’s great,” Tostenson told Victoria Buzz.
“I think it represents what restaurants really are all about—being tuned into their local community and neighbourhood.”
Tostenson notes restaurants still enforcing the vaccine card are seldom found. “Not to say that it doesn’t exist, but I would say that it is very rare. Many restaurants just wanted to get out of it and move on.”
It’s up to the business owner, according to BC health officials
Singer says he’s “just trying to run a business.”
“When the vaccine card was retracted, we were told by (Provincial Health Officer) Dr. Bonnie Henry that it was up to the businesses to keep it in place.”
On April 8th, BC health officials scrapped the controversial vaccine card, which required those 12 and up attending events, gyms, or restaurants to have their card ready to be scanned before entry.
Still, health officials said individual businesses and organizations could continue requiring the proof on their premises if desired.
And that’s the path Singer chose to follow.
“It’s not easy,” he added.
“I mean, it would be nice to do away with it, but we didn’t feel that was the way to go. I’m not doing this to be onerous; I’m doing this because I thought it was the right thing to do. It’s my community, and they’ve taken care of me over the years.”
“I just felt I had a responsibility.”