VANCOUVER—A showdown is brewing in rural British Columbia between a restaurant and local health authorities over the popular establishment’s refusal to implement provincial proof-of-vaccination measures.
Muriel Young, manager and co-owner of Rolly’s restaurant in Hope, said the restaurant won’t be closing its doors or enforcing the province’s weeks-old requirement to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination upon entry for non-essential services, even after local authorities ordered it to do so.
“Your health status is none of my business,” Young said. “What if I were to ask you if you were circumcised, that’s your private business. For somebody to ask if I’ve been vaccinated, they’ve got no right to do that.”
The family-style restaurant sits off a highway exit in Hope, a district of about 6,000 people about 150 kilometres east of Vancouver. The town was the filming location for the 1982 movie “First Blood,” a film about a Vietnam vet who takes on a local sheriff.
Young said her restaurant abided by every single COVID regulation, such as masks and social distancing, until the proof-of-vaccination requirements came into force. But she said the government cannot legally require people to disclose their vaccination status.
The province instituted a so-called COVID passport in mid-September. The requirement comes by order of the provincial health officer. In defiance of government health measures, some B.C. establishments have said they will not require their customers to show proof of vaccination to enter. Five of them have been hit with fines, according to the Ministry of Public Safety.
Rolly’s has quickly become the focal point of the issue after refusing to institute the measures — then refusing to close down when ordered by the Fraser Health Authority, and having its business licence pulled by the district of Hope for six months.
The provincial liquor authorities also revoked its liquor licence Friday.
The health authority said it “engaged” the restaurant’s owners after complaints. Fraser Health said if the restaurant does not close shop immediately it will be taking further steps.
“Should the business continue to be non-compliant with the Provincial Health Officer’s order, we will work with our compliance and enforcement partners and the Provincial Health Officer to determine appropriate next steps,” said spokesperson Curtis Harling in an email.
What those measures may be was not detailed. To reopen, Rolly’s would have to submit a compliance plan to be approved by Fraser Health.
Hope is the last major community heading out of Vancouver and roughly where the Trans-Canada Highway splits into three directions with the start of two different highways. There are limited chances for a meal or fuel stop for at least an hour, making it a common stop for motorists coming from any direction.
Many of them stop at Rolly’s. It often sports a line of weary travellers who’d rather wait a few minutes for a table inside instead of grabbing a quick meal at one of the fast-food places on the road running right off the highway through town.
Young said she’s now being fined $100 a day for defying authorities and was told the fines could reach as high as $25,000. Her son was told they could also face jail time, she said.
She isn’t worried about people possibly catching COVID at the restaurant, she said, because everyone is wearing masks. Public health officials have said wearing masks should also be combined with being vaccinated and frequent hand washing.
“Masks are supposed to work, aren’t they?” Young said. “If you’re vaccinated what are you afraid of?”