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Montreal Restaurants Openly Flouting the Diner Vaccine Mandate Are Putting Customer and Employee Health at Risk

As the province works to make indoor dining as safe as possible during its fourth wave of the pandemic, a handful of restaurants have picked an unsurprising hill to die on

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Restaurant owners’ reactions to the vaccine passport mandate Quebec put in place on September 1 continue to percolate on social media today, with some going as far as to vow to flout the measure and welcome unvaccinated individuals to dine in their establishments.

A representative for Saint-Henri pizzeria Adamo today posted in an Instagram Story that “all” clients are welcome in the establishment — no matter what fines that may incur for the slice shop. The province has warned that any person or business violating the rule is subject to up to $6,000 in fines or a forced closure after the province’s two-week grace period is up. (Vaccine passport checks are also mandatory for terrasse dining, but not for takeout.)

Adamo, which is mostly a takeout joint anyhow, posted the following:

We have been bringing ppl together and trying to keep a sense of normalcy throughout this pandemic and now is not the time to let anyone separate us. We will continue to welcome all our clients, embrace our friends and vigorously contest all fines. It’s not law until it’s debated democratically. One love [heart emoji]

The same message appeared in a Story posted to the account of nearby cafe Campanelli, from the same ownership.

Of course, one could argue that a more effective way to show care for the community would be following the measures designed to protect it from a virus that’s already taken the lives of 4.5 million people around the world in just a year and a half.

On August 31, the day before vaccine passports took effect, Villeray’s Caffé Roma posted to Facebook that its “door will be opened to vaccinated and non-vaccinated people,” noting that remaining safety regulations will nonetheless be respected.

Today a representative for the Villeray café posted a video to Facebook saying that it had received a visit from police after over 350 complaints were made about the prior post. The police asked that the cafe remove the post, but the representative for the cafe said, “I will keep my foot down all the way” and leave it up to a judge to decide.

The majority of Montreal restaurants and bars do not seem to — at least outwardly — oppose the new measure requiring those eating out to have received both doses of a vaccine studies show significantly reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission. After all, 79 percent of those eligible for the vaccine have received both doses, and the government has explicitly stated that the alternative could be to once again shut down all non-essential services in the face of a delta-driven fourth wave of the coronavirus in Quebec. Others are implementing the vaccine passport system more begrudgingly, voicing concerns about anticipated customer backlash and the hassle of yet another regulatory change.

Another cohort, which includes Côte-des-Neiges Hawaiian-Filipino restaurant Le Petit Vibe and Saint-Henri Caribbean eatery Le Jerk Spot, also opposes the government mandate, which they believe has the effect of ostracizing people based on their stance on vaccines. However, they are doing so without directly violating the new regulation — by keeping their dining rooms entirely closed.

The explanation provided by this last faction is rooted in notions of individual rights and freedoms and, in some cases, the perception of the vaccine passport as a privacy violation (never mind that the information disclosed to restaurants via customers’ QR codes is limited to name and vaccination status). But so far, it seems no restaurant owner has come out and said they’re putting a pause to on-site dining again in order to protect workers, the de facto enforcers of the new rule, from unsavoury interactions with recalcitrant customers.

Restaurants who choose to disregard the vaccine passport mandate by extending the “right” to dine at their establishment to vaccine skeptics perhaps need some reminding: ordering takeout and delivery was always on the table for these customers.