'We have to confront our clients': Quebec bars and restaurants struggling with COVID-19 vaccine passport rollout

Two groups representing Quebec's bars and restaurants say that three weeks into the vaccine passport program, establishments have had enough and risk ruin if the government does not step in with financial assistance.

"The bar and restaurant industry is realizing the injustice of which it is still a victim!" reads a release signed by Renaud Poulin, Corporation des Propriétaires de Bars, Brasseries et Tavernes du Québec (CPBBTQ) president and l’Union des Tenanciers de Bars du Québec (UTBQ) president Peter Sergakis. "As if the previous waves of this pandemic were not enough, the owners of bars and restaurants must now face the economic downfall caused by this new health restriction!"

Brutopia brewpub managing partner Jeff Picard admits that the VaxiCode passport is one of the few tools to get young people vaccinated against COVID-19, but that implementing it has been a headache.

"It's a lot of stress, it's a lot of work for us," said Picard. "We have to confront our clients, we have to interrogate them instead of greeting them... It's just a bunch of extra work care of the pandemic."

The CPBBTQ and UTBQ say sales have dropped more than 40 per cent in the majority of the establishments they represent.

They say that bar owners' excitement at being allowed to reopen quickly evaporated "when they realized the considerable negative impacts that the implementation of the vaccine passport had on their profitability, to the point where many are considering closing their business(es) until this new sanitary restriction is permanently lifted."

The two organizations are asking Premier Francois Legault and Health Minister Christian Dube to begin offering financial assistance to those in the bar and restaurant industry.

"This obstinacy of the provincial government to ostracize our industry must stop!" the release reads.

"Otherwise, we might as well close our establishments, once again!" they said.

Picard admitted his sales are down as his staff's stress has risen, but also that it's a question of choosing the lesser of two evils.

"Honestly, it's very controversial, it's very divisive, but if we're going to have to choose against between shutting everything down for the winter and asking people to get the passport, I'm going to side with the passport," he said. 

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