'Anger and vitriol': Toronto restaurants with vaccine mandate face backlash

The decision to enforce, or not enforce, a COVID-19 vaccination policy is negatively impacting some Toronto businesses.

The owner of Restaurant Chantecler says several fake reservations have been made and unwarranted one-star reviews have been left after the restaurant said it would ask guests who sit at the bar to show proof of vaccination.

“Creating a policy for six bar seats to keep our bartenders safe and keep ourselves safe from an outbreak that would surely close us down for two weeks...these are very reasonable and agreeable steps,” Jacob Wharton-Shukster said.

“The anger and vitriol that’s being spewed from the anti-vax crowd is sort of wild,” he said.

A new website called SafeTO-Do has surfaced to help guide vaccine conscious Ontarians find businesses that have policies for staff and/or customers.

Filmores Gentlemen’s Club is on the list — staff and patrons must be fully vaccinated to enter the establishment.

“The number one concern was safety. Is this going to be safe? Are we going to be okay?” said Kasper Cameron, the club’s manager.

“We are morally and ethically obligated to provide the safest possible work environment, so to us it was simple math."

Classes at Toronto Dance Salsa resume on Friday.

“Eighty per cent of our students are single, this is where marriages happen, relationships happen,” said studio director Aleks Saiyan.

Staff and students who want to dance in-person will need to show up fully protected against COVID-19.

“Now students can come in on their own, dance with others in small groups, because obviously limited capacity, but they can touch,” Saiyan said.

The majority of students are on board with the policy, he said.

Meanwhile, GoodLife Fitness has lost members for not asking for proof of vaccination.

Employment lawyers say enforcing a vaccine mandate is still a legal grey area.

“If there was any legal challenge to a mandatory vaccine policy they might be upheld in the health care sector, possibly in retail, and maybe in the food industry,” said Lai-King Hum, from HUM Law Firm.

Cameron and Wharton-Shukster argued businesses are in this sticky situation of defending their own vaccine policy, because they said the Ontario government failed to make one for them.