Restaurants look for more staff, vaccine requirements in effect

Restaurant owner Brian D’Souza says the first day scanning vaccine cards at his Vancouver pubs went relatively smooth. But there were still a few bumps when it came to a handful of disgruntled patrons — including regulars.

“If it’s a regular, for them to get used to the idea that they pretty much walk and everyone knows them … now they’re being asked, show us your ID, show us your Q.R. code,” D’Souza said.

“I think people will get used to it,” he said.

D’Souza is the co-owner of the Wolf and Hound Pub, which, like all sit-down restaurants and pubs in the province, must ensure indoor diners have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The provincial rules went into effect on Sept. 13.

The first few days of the program are serving as a trial run ahead of the busier weekend, where D’Souza is hoping to secure additional staff to both keep up with the added workflow of checking ID’s and vaccine cards, and easing any tension should conflicts arise.

Starting Monday, B.C. will require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, movie theatres, gyms and other non-essential activities. (Janella Hamilton)

“The biggest challenge that we have right now is staffing, especially someone in these kinds of roles,” he said. “We’re going to have people who are going to be in line without a vaccine card or a Q.R. code.”

An ongoing worker shortage has made securing these additional staff an uncertainty, at least for now.

“Every business must be seeing the same thing,” he said.

Vaccine ‘ambassadors’

But with months still to go before the vaccine card program comes to an end, more and more restaurants are relying on security companies to fill the gap.

Robin Chakrabarti, president of Securiguard, says his company has seen growing demand from restaurant owners over the last two months.

After health officials announced B.C.’s vaccine card requirements, Securiguard has gone on a hiring spree for what it’s calling “vaccine security ambassadors.”

A server is pictured bringing food to indoor diners at Yolks restaurant in Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 25, 2021.(Ben Nelms)

The workers will be deployed to places like restaurants where vaccine cards are mandatory.

“We’re there to de-escalate situations, provide a visible deterrent, psychological safety, and then implement this verification process,” he told CBC News.

Growing costs

Chakrabarti admits that restaurant owners have been put in a difficult position where they are bearing the brunt of security costs.

“Obviously restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic, absent margins, but at the same time they need to implement this vaccine passport,” he said. “Security guards in the restaurant are one effective solution to that.”

The B.C. Food and Restaurant Association has been advocating for more support from the province when it comes to security costs and resources to help staff manage conflicts at the front door.

In the meantime, BCRFA president Ian Tostenson has urged people not to take their frustrations out on workers.

Tostenson says inspectors can fine patrons on the spot, and if a situation escalates, police will be called.

“It’s going to be stressful,” he said. “[But] I think after a few days we should have smoother sailing.”

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