Vax card

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce plans to quiz the operators of businesses such as licensed restaurants, pubs, and other non-essential services how introduction of the vaccine card on Sept. 13 has affected their customer traffic.

Business at B.C. restaurants and pubs has dropped off significantly since the vaccination card was introduced, an industry group says.

"We're hearing the number of customers is down between 20% and 30%," Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservice Association, said Thursday.

"It's concerning, but we're hoping things will normalize and bounce back," Tostenson said.

Operators of licensed establishments in Kelowna will soon be asked how the new vaccine card has affected their business.

The Chamber of Commerce plans a local survey to see if restaurants and pubs have seen their customer numbers drop or remain unaffected by the requirement that patrons produce their vaccine card before entering.

"Most of what we're hearing is anecdotal," chamber executive director Dan Rogers said Thursday.

"We're planning to undertake a survey of our applicable members in the next few weeks to garner some actual data," he said.

For its part, the Vernon Chamber of Commerce says restaurants in that city have seen "decreased sales activity" since use of vaccine cards became mandatory at many non-essential businesses, including movie theatres and gyms, on Sept. 13.

There have also been issues with restaurant staff dutifully complying with the provincial health order to ask customers to produce the card, the Vernon chamber says.

"Every time someone walks through the door, business owners and staff wonder if that individual will become agitated," Vernon chamber president Robin Cardew said in a release.

"We know passports are contentious, but business owners and their employees don't create the rules," Cardew said. "Aggressive behaviour is not going to change the situation and, in fact, will only add to the stress businesses and profits have been experiencing during the pandemic."

Tostenson, of the restaurant association, estimated that less than 100 of the approximately 7,500 licensed restaurants in B.C. are openly flouting the requirement that staff ask customers to produce evidence of their vaccination status.

"The government has to start cracking down on these businesses, and I believe they are starting to do so," Tostenson said. "You just can't have people openly defying a public health order."

He believes restaurant activity will pick up as more people download the card and get used to having to produce it when asked to do so.