New York restaurants, gyms require proof of vaccination. Could it happen in B.C.?

Anyone wanting to eat indoors at a restaurant or go to the gym in New York City will now need to provide proof of vaccination.

The president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, Ian Tostenson, sees the upside of a similar rule in British Columbia.

“There’s a lot of logic to this,” said Tostenson. “If it means that people suddenly realize getting vaccinated is a very important responsibility, then if that’s what it takes, that’s what its going to take.”

But Tostenson doubts individual restaurants would require proof of vaccination for staff or customers. He said a provincial mandate would be required to level the playing field.

“You want to make it across the board fair, and you want to make in consistent. Not just for the restaurants, but for the bars, the pubs, the fitness industry,” said Tostenson.

Sara Hodson, the CEO of Live Well Exercise Clinics, agrees gyms are unlikely to require proof of vaccination unless it’s required for everyone.

“I do think that it has to be a guideline that really puts business owners into a place where we can operationalize it in a meaningful and fair way,” said Hodson.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Tuesday that she isn’t considering making proof of vaccination mandatory at any indoor venues right now. But lawyer Sarah Leamon says there are likely some businesses that hope it happens.

“I think it might make it easier for businesses, because they could say their hands are tied, and they are just following the law. So perhaps that aspect would be more appealing to some businesses who are maybe thinking about mandating these types of rules, but are a little bit gun shy,” said Leamon.

She doesn’t believe it’s against the law for a business to require customers present proof of vaccination.

“I think they can do that, whether or not they should is perhaps a different questions,” said Leamon. “I think any business that decides to do this will likely face some legal challenges. But whether those challenges are successful remains to be seen.”

Hodson, who is part of a fitness industry working group that consults with the provincial government, expects if Henry does want gyms to require proof of vaccination in the future, it would be discussed with stakeholders first.

“Where we are perhaps different than New York City in that we have a really healthy collaborative working relationship with the provincial government,” said Hodson.

Tostenson also expects the restaurant industry would be consulted, and if the COVID-19 outbreak in the Okanagan is contained, he’s hopeful an order on proof of vaccination won’t be needed.

“If we continue to see the situation expand that we are seeing in Kelowna, then I think you will see the call from our industry and other industries, the fitness industry, for the government to try to do something. We can’t do it ourselves.”