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Vaccine passports are 'discriminatory' say Richmond business owners

B.C. government requires certain businesses to show proof of immunization as of Sept. 13.
Davood Khatami, owner of Davood's Bistro, is one of several Steveston business owners who will not be asking for proof of vaccination from customers.

“Getting the vaccine is a personal choice, but making the vaccine passport mandatory in order for people to receive service from businesses is just discriminatory.”

Davood Khatami, owner of Davood’s Bistro, said he will not be asking customers for proof of vaccination and calls the B.C. vaccine passport system a form of “discrimination” and “control.”

He is among a group of Steveston business owners who say they will defy the public health mandate.

As of Sept. 13, the B.C. government requires certain businesses, such as dine-in restaurants, indoor sporting events and gyms, to check customers’ proof of immunization and only those who are vaccinated are able to enter the establishments.

“Someone choosing to get or not to get the vaccine is their own choice, I won’t judge them and others shouldn’t either because it’s no one else’s business except the person and their doctor,” said Khatami.

“What gives the government the right today to label someone as ‘unvaccinated? Does that mean you’re dirty? You’re poison? You’re disgusting? This is insane.”

Khatami told the Richmond News that while defying the order could hurt his business, he would rather earn less than make “people feel like they are being judged for not getting the vaccine.”

“It’s ridiculous to think that you have to be vaccinated in order to sit at a restaurant when you could go and eat at a food court and not be questioned about your vaccination status.”

Philippe Leroux, owner of Damien’s Belgian Waffles, and Rick Germain, owner of Pure Water Shoppe, agree with Khatami’s stance regarding the vaccine passport system, although neither of their establishments requires proof of vaccination anyway. Although Damien’s serves food, it’s in the coffee shop category, which is exempt.

Meanwhile, it appears most businesses in Steveston are complying with the order.

The Richmond News has received numerous letters from readers supporting the mandate and noting how strictly restaurants are enforcing it.

The owner of Blue Canoe Waterfront restaurant, Jim van der Tas, said the vaccine passport mandate “works for them,” but added there is not much of a choice at this time. His complaint has more to do with why some businesses are exempt.

“We have no choice but to do it, but I do have thoughts when a coffee shop doesn’t need to do it and people sit in the same room for an hour or hour and a half just like in a restaurant,” said Van der Tas.

“I’m not upset about it, and we’re just going to do what we’ve got to do to make sure our staff and our customers feel safe.”

The staff, he added, felt anxious about enforcing the mandate in the beginning, but several groups of customers have since told Van der Tas they feel more comfortable coming out knowing the passport is required.

“That’s something I wasn’t expecting people to openly talk about. We are just happy our staff and customers feel safe coming to us.”

The business owners who are defying the mandate admit they’ve had a fair number of customers “quite surprised” by their stance, but said many people understand their reasons. Regardless, they all agreed the issue has created tension within the community, between friends and even within families.

Khatami said the last two weeks have been more stressful than the entire year of 2020.

In a Richmond News poll with 271 respondents, 80 per cent of readers answered “no” to the question, Would you go to a business that’s not adhering to the vaccine passport rules?