‘Verbal harassment like yelling and screaming’: Local businesses face heat from some customers even before vaccine passport in place

The province’s vaccine passport is nearly three weeks out and many small businesses in London, Ont. area already feeling the heat from some customers.

“Verbal harassment like yelling and screaming, insulting, language. It almost sounds like it’s a temper tantrum from a spoiled child honestly,” says Shane Kenneth, the owner of Coffee Culture on Dundas Place, in downtown London.

Local businesses are calling for more direction from the provincial government on how the passport will work. This comes as many face harassment and threats from customers over COVID-19 protocols already in place.

Kenneth says they do their best to keep customers happy, and to follow the rules set by the province, but it’s not always easy to do both. In at least one case he says he was threatened with legal action.

“He basically just said ‘okay you’ll from my lawyer,’ ok if that’s what you feel you have to do then you have to do, but I’m protecting my staff.”

He’s far from alone. Noisette Bakery on Oxford Street East announced Friday via Instagram that it will cease indoor dining as of Sept. 22 when the vaccine passport comes in, saying “we aren’t able to properly enforce the vaccine passport effectively.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is calling for provincial funding for businesses to enforce the vaccine passport.

Julie Kwiecinski, director of provincial affairs for Ontario, says a long list of unanswered questions remain regarding enforcement, with little time left to implement the system effectively

“The train has left the station so now we have to fight for small businesses to make sure the government provides them with the tools they need,” she said. “Everything from training and education, funding, and also very important one – ironclad protection against any human rights complaints and costly lawsuits.”

Some businesses are resigned to the ever-changing regulations around pandemic protocols.

At the Alibi Roadhouse on Oxford Street West, owner Dan Johnson says he supports the vaccine passport as long as it doesn’t become permanent. He suspects customers will get used to it just as they have wearing masks indoors.

“Well we’re already the police when it comes to over-serving, underage drinking, no smoking. This is just one more thing.”