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Canadian News Sep 25, 2021 8:25 PM EST

BC steps up enforcement of COVID rules against non-compliant businesses

Only one percent of licensed, table-service BC restaurants ordered to check for proof of vaccination are choosing to defy the rules.

BC steps up enforcement of COVID rules against non-compliant businesses
Adam Dobrer Vancouver

According to Ian Tostenson, President & CEO of the BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association, one percent of licensed, table-service restaurants ordered to check for proof of vaccination is choosing to defy the rules.

"They need to be fined, they need to be shut down," said Tostenson, generally speaking to companies who choose to dismiss public health orders.

BC's government is stepping up enforcement against non-compliant businesses that fall under the current proof of vaccination order. The Ministry of Public Safety declined to provide specific details about individual businesses or comment on how many tickets have been issued so far.

The Fernie Cattle Company is among those businesses openly defying the health order mandating restaurants check for proof of vaccination.

"Everyone is welcome," and "We will not ask for personal health information," reads a sign posted on its door. "The only thing we'll ask you is what you want to order."

The restaurant told CTV News it had no comment about its outright rejection of public health policy. However, it enforces other COVID-19 protocols such as masking and distancing.

In a statement, the Ministry of Public Safety said it "[has] full confidence that the collective efforts of all agencies will be effective."

BC Premier John Horgan was blunter, adding: "There will be consequences for [non-compliance]," adding that he wished to avoid a "heavy hand," urging instead for "common sense" to prevail.

The province recently hit a new vaccination benchmark, with over 80 percent of eligible residents fully vaccinated and first dose uptake nearing 90 percent.

Aside from the very vocal minority of businesses refusing to comply, Tostenson indicated that the rollout of proof of vaccination first launched on September 13.

"We see the public love it because they feel safe," he said. "They don't mind doing it. We're getting into a bit of a flow now."

Tostenson added that his biggest concern is finding funds for restaurants that have solely hired extra staff to verify vaccination status.

"If a restaurant puts someone in front of the house full-time, you're probably looking at $60,000 a year," he said.

Premier John Horgan expressed a desire to assist the provinces' hospitality and service industries with defraying the costs of enforcing proof of vaccination, but no specific plans have been announced.

Under public health orders, businesses that don't comply could be subject to a $2,300 fine.

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