'I simply won't do it': Some Central Okanagan businesses take a stand on vaccine passports

'I simply won't do it'

Madison Erhardt

"I simply won't do it. I will not."

The owner of Ricco Bambino Urban Winery and Garden Bar says he is taking a stand and is refusing to comply with the government's orders to enforce the vaccine passport.

“I will not ask my staff, I can’t put them in harm's way. I can not be part of anything that is going to cause a further divide in our community, further segregation, further discrimination. We are not going to do this. We are not going to enforce. I absolutely refuse to do this," said owner Jason Alton on Thursday.

Alton says despite potential consequences, he wants to put up a fight.

“I am worried if we have to close or if that is forced upon us, but as far as customers, we have had overwhelming support. People love what we are doing.”

Alton says he is concerned for his staff’s safety.

“Verbal assaults, potentially physical assaults. You've seen what has happened when people have been asked to wear a mask.”

The mandate goes into effect on Sept. 13, when proof of a single dose of vaccine will be required to enter many non-essential businesses, including gyms.

Brett Barker, president and CEO of Anytime Fitness in Lake County, says he will not comply with the government's demands.

“My specific industry has received nothing but restrictions, mandated closures, when our current solution isn’t working," Barker said. "I mean we live in a country that is free and it needs to stay that way.”

Barker says he has received a lot of support from clients.

“Lots of people stopping me in my workout. Two of them had medical exemptions. He told me that my stance meant everything to him and his ability to continue to come to the gym."

Many other businesses across B.C. have shared similar perspectives.

A Facebook group called "BC Businesses against Health Pass" has attracted more than 60,000 members.

The group shares a list of businesses that claim a vaccine passport in B.C. is unconstitutional.

Bad Tattoo Brewing, one of the busiest restaurants in Penticton, also announced Thursday they will not be enforcing the rules. The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce has called for a delay in the program rollout, noting that 36% of members are strongly opposed.

At this time, it's unclear how the government intends to monitor the measures or what penalties businesses might face if they do not comply.

Castanet has reached out to the Ministry of Health, which has yet to respond.

Some of the top legal minds in the country say B.C.'s vaccine passport program will almost certainly end up in court, but that doesn't necessarily make it illegal or unconstitutional.

Premier John Horgan says the province is ready for the fight in court.

"Government is always prepared for these types of adventures into the courts, we do it all the time," he said.

The government says the vaccine passport measure is temporary, but will run until the end of January.

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