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Vancouver Island pub still checking vaccine passports getting support from patrons

Owner Bill Singer thought other establishments would make the same decision
Bill Singer checks for proof of vaccination at the doors of the Rumrunner Pub, which he owns and manages in Sidney. His decision to keep the vaccination requirement in place has sparked online criticism but also earned praise from customers. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

A Sidney entrepreneur said his restaurant will continue to check vaccination passports.

“I’m just going to be watching the news,” said Bill Singer, who owns and manages Rumrunner Pub in Sidney, adding later that he would judge the situation on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. “I was actually hoping from a personal point of view that they would be keeping the vaccine mandates on until late spring … I thought they would give everybody more time to break the cycle for herd immunity and they didn’t do that, but I understand why.”

While proof of vaccination requirements for entry into restaurants ended April 8, Singer said he made his decision a couple of weeks earlier.

“I’m not doing this because I’m trying to be onerous about it,” he said. “I just took a position that I thought other people would take too … And Bonnie Henry, when she came out, said that we have our choice.”

Singer said he wasn’t comfortable with COVID-19 trendlines. “My first thought (after the announcement concerning vaccine passports) was that the numbers are going to rise. This is not going to be as easy as everybody thinks.”

As a business owner of more than 30 years, Singer said he just wanted to be done with COVID-19 like everybody else. “Everybody is suffering from fatigue, including me,” he said. “In the restaurant business, you just want to open your door and take care of your customers.”

But input from customers, as well as discussions with wife Jane Margetts Singer, led to some personal reflection and the eventual decision to keep the vaccine passport in place at his establishment, a decision also shaped by Sidney’s older demographic.

“I know that some of them have personal issues,” he said. “Some of them have already expressed discomfort and I said, ‘well, I will keep it on for a while, not realizing that I was going to be the only one in Greater Victoria from what I can make out. I hope I am not.”

The move was also endorsed by his staff following discussions.

RELATED: B.C. COVID-19 vaccine card no longer required as of April 8

This unique status turned Singer, who does not describe himself as a dogmatic person, and his business into an immediate target of language unfit to be printed.

“It was massive, but some of them might have been bots,” he said.

These digital attacks have co-existed with analogue attacks.

“My wife was sworn at,” he said. “We have had people walk out of the door when they see what we are doing. They turn around and walk away. And I knew that might happen.”

But with this, Singer has also received what he described as a “tremendous outpouring of support” from people in Greater Victoria and beyond, and from other sources including the provincial association representing the restaurant industry.

He’s even seen some of the busiest days the restaurant’s had since last summer.

“I just felt that I had that to get out there and explain why I’m doing it. It’s a community thing, I have an older clientele. I have been here for 32 years and I wanted my customers to feel that I was taking care of them.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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