Bar cuts in-person service over abuse of anti-COVID-19 restrictions

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Thompson said his decision to adopt the REP was made to ensure the survival of his business and the safety of the public – intentions that do not deserve the hateful backlash.

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A Calgary-area bar owner says abusive customers opposed to COVID-19 vaccine passports forced him to shut down restaurant services.

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Greg Thompson said threats and intimidation directed at him and staff caused him to abandon plans for the regular operations of his Langdon Firehouse Bar & Grill in the town just east of Calgary.

He said his choice to screen clients for immunization status under the Restriction Waiver Program (REP) which went into effect on Monday has led to withered abuse that has left their physical safety in doubt.

“This past weekend we were inundated with threats and intimidation, both in person and online. It was for the owner group and the staff, ”Thompson said on Facebook Monday.

“We feel that our safety and that of our staff is in danger! “

From Tuesday, the bar – well known for its live music – will only revert to take-out after announcing on Friday that it will adopt the REP to operate with virtually no restrictions.

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Thompson said his decision was aimed at ensuring the survival of his business and the safety of the public – intentions that do not deserve the hateful backlash.

“We stayed in constant contact with the community and did our best not to choose a side. We’ve always tried to do what’s right for the community, our people and this business, ”he said.

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On Tuesday, Thompson said: “As we move forward, we believe we have addressed most of our concerns but still need to be concerned about safety to keep our staff and customers safe.”

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Since making the move, which he says is temporary, Thompson said he has heard other bars and restaurants repel similar anger attacks, adding “this is not just a personal attack on the fire station. firefighters, it is against the whole industry “.

Calgary pub owner Ernie Tsu also said vitriol is rife in the industry and his own business has not been spared.

“Of course, we get them daily,” said an angry Tsu, president of the Alberta Hospitality Association and owner of Trolley 5 Community Brewpub.

After the financial and psychological toll suffered by his industry during the pandemic, he said the bullying was particularly unacceptable, but called it a by-product of the province’s refusal to impose vaccine passports, which leaves critics to target businesses, he said.

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“I will no longer sit idly by and see people lost to mental health issues losing everything they own and having to shut down their businesses,” he said.

“People should go after their MPs, not their local neighbors. . . we just need to remind Albertans that it is either about doing the REP or closing our doors.

Trolley 5 Restaurant and brewery owner Ernie Tsu.
Trolley 5 Restaurant and brewery owner Ernie Tsu. Photo by Darren Makowichuk / Postmedia

Mayor Naheed Nenshi also criticized the province’s refusal to make REP mandatory, saying it leaves companies exposed to attack for having to choose to pass the measure.

“It’s cruel to these entrepreneurs who have been through so much,” he said last week.

“Why not just make it easier by saying ‘you have to be vaccinated to go to a restaurant’. “

On Tuesday, Nenshi said he was calling a special city council meeting to draft a bylaw making this process mandatory and streamlined.

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The owner of the Dickens Pub at 1000 9th Ave. SW, echoed these sentiments, saying that “the government has approached this issue in typical UCP style – backwards.”

Chris Hewitt said when he decided to demand proof of vaccine three weeks ago, he was met with a torrent of bullying online and over the phone.

“The vast majority of our customers were thrilled, but this vocal minority can be very vicious – it’s amazing how harsh they can be,” he said, adding that the anger at the door was minimal.

But he said that has since diminished, adding that with the vast majority of companies opting for REP, strength in numbers would deter abuse.

“If we’ve done it alone and (this abuse) hasn’t happened a lot, then it’s not going to happen in every place,” Hewitt said.

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The Firehouse Bar & Grill in Langdon, east of Calgary, has temporarily suspended in-person service after receiving threats about the province's new vaccine passport.
The Firehouse Bar & Grill in Langdon, east of Calgary, has temporarily suspended in-person service after receiving threats about the province’s new vaccine passport. Photo by Jim Wells / Postmedia

Calgary Police said they had not received any harassment complaints from businesses.

The Calgary area isn’t alone in having opponents of COVID-19 restrictions harassing companies that enforce them.

Authorities in the town of Winkler in southern Manitoba have expressed anger and frustration at the widespread targeting of restaurateurs, retailers and law enforcement personnel.

“Overall, the animosity of this community that has emerged during this pandemic has crippled our integrity,” Winkler Police Department Chief Ryan Hunt said in a statement last weekend.

Hunt said some residents have also accused officials of not enforcing public health restrictions tightly enough, revealing a deep rift within his community.

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Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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