Innisfil restaurant owner thinks vaccine passport will lead to awkward situations with customers

Robert Saunders, owner of The Cove Café in Innisfil, is not looking forward to asking his customers for their personal identification and proof of vaccination. 

He wants to get back to the business of running his restaurant, but the province’s plan to implement a vaccine certificate program feels like something that will lead to awkward situations with customers.

“You’re asking somebody a personal question, ‘Are you vaccinated or not vaccinated? Can I see your ID to make sure that ID matches your vaccination record?’ I think that is very personal,” he said. 

The province’s plan, which comes into effect Sept. 22, will require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and proof of identity in order to enter indoor public settings such as restaurants, bars, banquet halls, casinos, cinemas, and sport and recreation facilities. 

By Oct. 22, the province plans to introduce a digital certificate that will use a QR code and a verification app that will let Ontarians prove they are vaccinated through their smartphones. 

Saunders said he would prefer to scan a QR code than ask for ID and vaccination proof every time someone comes to dine. 

“Other provinces have it already on their phones, so why is it taking us seven or eight weeks to do it?” he said. 

At the same time, he said there may be issues for seniors who are not tech savvy when the digital certificate comes into effect. 

The province is developing alternatives for people without smartphones, ID, emails and health cards. 

“There is going to be a lot of business loss because of it. I think people are just going to say, ‘I’m not going out,’ ” Saunders said.

He noted the restaurant has already taken numerous steps to ensure customer safety, including disposable menus, requiring masks indoors, installing partitions and plexiglass, and requiring physical distancing. 

“We have all the safety protocols in effect,” he said. “Why is there this one more step that the restaurateurs have to take into account? Why is the onus on the owners and operators?” 

Saunders said there are still some people who are wary about indoor dining, and he doesn’t know if a vaccine certification program will change that. 

“Logistically, it’s going to be a nightmare for the restaurants for the first little while,” he said. 

Jo Rogers, a customer picking up takeout at The Cove Cafe, said she supports the implementation of a vaccine certification program at certain businesses. 

“It makes me feel safer,” she said. “I don’t want to be mingling with people who haven’t had their shots. That’s their right not to get them, but I don’t want to hang with them.” 

Knowing other people in a restaurant are fully vaccinated would make her more comfortable to return to indoor dining.

“Anything we can do to enhance that safety, I’m 100 per cent for it,” she said. 

For more information, and to find out how to get vaccinated, visit .

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Some businesses will soon be responsible for ensuring patrons have proof of vaccination against COVID-19, so we reached out to see what owners and customers think.