MONTREAL — Business owners in Montreal said Wednesday they were adapting to the new vaccine passport system, but they lamented having to turn people away at a time when they need all the money they can get.
Hamid Kiani, the owner of bakery and cafe Vasconia Boulangerie in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, said he had already refused entry to several clients earlier in the morning because they didn’t have evidence they had received two shots of COVID-19 vaccine.
“We lost three or four groups of people here because I asked them to show me their passport and they didn’t have it,” he said in an interview. “They said, ‘We have our passport but it is not with us at this moment.’”
The government launched its passport system Wednesday, requiring anyone in the province to show proof of vaccination to access businesses and events deemed non-essential, such as restaurants, gyms and festivals.
Patrons are required to show quick response codes, or QR codes, issued by the government, which are scanned by a smartphone application.
Kiani said he worries about having to ask people to show him their codes.
“I think it could be difficult because I know, especially in Quebec, that people don’t like to give you more information about themselves,” he said.
Still, Kiani said he’s trying to follow the new health order. He posted a sign on the café’s door informing people they have show proof of vaccination if they want to eat inside, and he said he plans to print out a copy of his QR code and place it near the cash register so clients feel comfortable.
The government could have done a better job of providing signage like that to help businesses adapt, he said.
Health Minister Christian Dubé has said there will be a two-week grace period during which no penalties will be imposed for non-compliance. But starting Sept. 15, people and businesses caught violating the health order can face thousands of dollars in fines.
The government has said the passport system is necessary to keep the economy open and limit COVID-19-related hospitalizations.
At bar Bistro De Paris, owner Claude Legault said things were going well so far. Scanning QR codes is easy, he said, and while some older clients didn’t have their proof of vaccination, he said he was able to print out their QR codes on a computer in his office.
The vaccine passport is preferable to another lockdown, he said. “It’s definitely better than closing, but we’re going to lose a lot of money all the same,” he said in an interview.
Closing time remains at 1 a.m. instead of the pre-pandemic 3 a.m., capacity is still limited and live music hasn’t returned to his bar, he said, adding he expected he’ll have to turn away some customers because they’re not vaccinated.
Mathieu Larocque, a customer at Bistro De Paris, said he was wary of having to show proof vaccination initially, but he has accepted it.
“I realized, I do like to go out so I might as well do it,” he said.
Larocque said he’s often asked to show ID when buying cigarettes at convenience stores, adding that his photo identification contains more personal information than the QR code.
Showing the code is easy for people who are familiar with smartphones, he said, but it could be difficult for people who aren’t as comfortable with technology.
Meanwhile, Quebec reported 690 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and two more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Authorities said 138 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, a rise of seven patients, with 40 listed in intensive care, a rise of four.
Health officials said just over 87 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received one dose of vaccine and 80.8 per cent are deemed adequately vaccinated.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 1, 2021.