Paul and Suzanne Doran say they are feeling much safer dining indoors since Ontario’s vaccine certificate system came into effect Wednesday.
Restaurant owners across Niagara-on-the-Lake said the rollout was painless and easy to implement.
“It’s great, definitely,” Suzanne said while she and husband Paul dined at the Sandtrap Pub & Grill on Wednesday afternoon.
She said it was a no-brainer to be feeling safer inside a restaurant knowing only people who have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be allowed in.
“People have to understand it’s good for everybody, it’s not just for us. The certificate will protect the staff and it will help restaurant owners,” Paul said.
The Dorans live in the Village development and had been making the restaurant rounds on Wednesday having gone to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club before heading to Sandtrap for an afternoon pint.
They said things were running smoothly at the golf course as well.
Over at the Olde Angel Inn, owner Kelly Turner said her staff were nervous about dealing with unruly anti-vaxxers who might want to dine in the restaurant.
Luckily, those fears hadn’t come true on the first day of the certificates launch.
“No issues so far. Everyone's very co-operative and understands what’s happening,” Turner said.
“We’re just telling customers on the phone if you want to sit inside we require this. Otherwise, if you want to sit outside we won’t ask.”
Under the new provincial rules, customers who wish to dine inside a restaurant and use other indoor facilities have to show proof they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as well as a piece of government-issued identification.
Starting on Oct. 22 the province will be rolling out a QR code system to demonstrate an individual's vaccination status to an applicable business.
Customers can still dine on patios or order takeout without needing to prove their vaccination status.
Even some American travellers were offering up their vaccine certificates to get out of the rain and have a dry meal on Wednesday.
“We don’t have a problem with it at all. We’re already vaccinated,” Michigan resident Gary Berlin said while he dined in the Angel Inn with his wife Lorraine.
The couple have been coming to NOTL for 25 years and it was their first time back since the pandemic began.
“We are very glad to be back,” Gary said.
Lorraine said people who haven’t gotten vaccinated have made their choice not to be protected. She said getting the vaccine was about making sure she wouldn’t suffer from COVID.
Leigh Atherton, owner of The Garrison House, felt the system was pretty simple to understand.
“If you’re unvaccinated, you basically have two choices: patio or takeout,” Atherton said.
She hadn’t had any customers sit inside the restaurant yet but said even those who were sitting on the patio were eager to show her their vaccine certificate.
Atherton said the province making the certificate mandatory makes it easy for businesses who might have been worried about alienating customers by imposing the policy themselves.
“Basically, (unvaccinated people) have made their choice, the government has made their choice and we have no choice,” she said.
She didn’t have much sympathy for people who can’t dine inside if they refuse to get vaccinated.
“They’ve made their choice,” she said.
Jason Moss, executive chef at Butler’s Bar and Grill, said negative reactions to the certificate have been misrepresented.
“It’s mostly just chatter online,” Moss said.
He said Butler’s had no issues with patrons showing their vaccination status.
Layal Abusaleemeh works at Sono’s Cafe in Virgil and agreed the rollout was going well.
“Everything’s good, it’s easy. We’ve had no problems,” Abusaleemeh said.
And down on Queen Street, Stage Coach Family Restaurant was packed with customers.
Staff member Rita Delvecchio said the restaurant hadn’t had any problems with enforcing the vaccine certificate throughout the morning rush but checking everyone’s identification was a hassle.
Rita Mazza owns Italian Pizza & Subs in Virgil with her husband Martin. Although the couple haven’t opened up their indoor dining area since the pandemic began Rita was flabbergasted that any businesses might be against the certificate.
“(Restaurants) have lost already, how much? And now you’re shutting down because you don’t want to take the opportunity to be safe? I don’t understand that,” she said.
Mazza was genuinely shocked at the number of people in Canada who don’t trust vaccines and drew on her family's history for reference. Mazza’s parents came to Canada from Italy when she was 1 month old.
“(My parents) lived through World War Two, they lived through famine,” she said.
“They get (to Canada) and the doc says your kids need to get vaccines. ‘No problem doc,’ and they just handed us over. Measles, mumps, whatever. My mom, she trusted them. They were the doctors.”
She said she and her family all had a vaccination status page in the back of their passports.
“Did my mom complain that it was an invasion of privacy? No,” Mazza said.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report