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Downtown restaurant owner continuing to enforce COVID vaccine passport requirement

CrossRoads Brewing customers support stand Dr. Daryl Leiski is taking to make Prince George restaurant safer for immunocompromised patrons
CrossRoads Brewing owners Daryl Leiski and Bjorn Butow
CrossRoads Brewing co-owners Daryl Leiski, left, and Bjorn Butow stand in front of their downtown restaurant/brew pub at 505 George St.

The owner of a Prince George restaurant/brew pub says he will continue to require his customers to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus or be denied entry to the downtown establishment.  

CrossRoads Brewing co-owner Daryl Leiski, a medical doctor who also owns the Salveo Medical Clinic, decided to continue enforcing the passport requirement after provincial health restrictions were lifted April 8 to offer another layer of protection for his customers at his restaurant and support his health care colleagues and patients at the hospital.

“For me it’s all about medicine and I’ve got my other hat on because I’m a doc, and the first thing we have to do is protect the hospital and the population,” said Leiski, who worked 25 years as an emergency room doctor at UHNBC.

“People with COVID, people who are vaccinated, still pass it around but let’s say I’m triple-vaccinated, if I get COVID there’s little likelihood I’m going to end up in the hospital. But if someone is unvaccinated and gets COVID they’re likely to end up in the hospital, and then what happens is this trickle-down thing and the hospital’s full of unvaccinated patients. Then when it comes time for you or me or mom and dad who needs ICU with a car crash or heart attack and the hospital is jammed full of unvaccinated COVID (patients), it just affects the whole community. That’s kind of why we still have the passport.”

The revised order dropped the requirement for people visiting restaurants, bars and other indoor spaces to show proof of vaccination and wear a mask.

Leiski said his customers at the restaurant fully support the stand CrossRoads is taking to keep the vaccine passport policy in place. A notice about a protest rally planned for Friday evening was posted Tuesday on social media channels, but the rally fizzled when only four vehicles joined a vehicle parade which passed by CrossRoads on the way from the rally staging area at the Treasure Cove Casino parking lot.

“We’ve had our busiest week because people who saw the negative comments and also support CrossRoads, they’ve been coming out,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that are happy that they still have a safe place to go. There are some immunocompromised people out there that still don’t feel comfortable going out and knowing that everyone in the restaurant, including my staff, are all vaccinated gives another layer of safety to some people in the community that want to continue with vaccine passports.”

As the owner of a private business, Leiski says it’s well within his right to refuse to serve anybody who is not vaccinated without being discriminatory, much like the commonly accepted ‘no shoes, no shirt, no service,’ policy. The day the passport order was rescinded, a sign was posted at CrossRoads to inform patrons the previous order would remain in effect indefinitely.

“Every business can decide or limit who has access to their business in a non-discriminatory way. I think the anti-vaxxers or rally people are feeling that it’s discrimination and choice,” said Leiski. “I am happy there are people passionate enough to go out and rally and support choice, but on the other hand they have to respect everybody’s choice. So you can’t pick and choose freedom of choice, and if those people don’t make the same choice you make, it doesn’t make your choice less important.

“I respect their right to protest and I respect our right to restrict access,” he said.

Despite rescinding of heath orders across Canada, Leiski says coronavirus remains a threat to public health and he said the number of infections in B.C. is rising.

“Provincewide we’re up 34 per cent over last week and that’s hospitalizations, that’s not reporting (the number of cases),” he said. “We never did report self-tests so we don’t really know what the prevalence is in the population right now but you can only work backwards from hospitalizations.

“There are a few people who are vaccinated who end up in the hospital but that’s a rarity. If you’re unvaccinated you’re nine times more likely to end up in hospital than you are if you’re vaccinated against COVID and you’re 16 times more likely to end up in ICU or dying once you’re in the hospital. It’s not an insignificant number.”

Leiski and his colleagues at the walk-in clinic are noticing an uptick in COVID cases.

“I’ve never had more COVID-positive patients in the clinic in the entire two years than I’ve had in this last two weeks,” Leiski said. “We’re seeing four or five a day that are positive and we saw four or five a week at the worst part of the pandemic. They’re mostly vaccinated, but you’re still sick and you still miss work and it’s a toll on the economy, but they’re not as sick.

“We haven’t decided how long we’re going to keep that passport requirement, it’s going to be a week-to-week thing, watching the hospital and watching the numbers and just making sure our ICU isn’t filling up with COVID patients again.”

From CrossRoads, the rally protesters had planned to go to Lambda Cabaret at 1177 Third Ave., to show their support for the club’s Freedom Night and raise money for Lambda owner Linda Wolf and her court battle with the province. On March 15 a B.C. Supreme Court judge issued a court injunction closure to Lambda for violating provincial health orders related to the pandemic. That order remained in place until April 8, when B.C. lifted the health order requiring proof of vaccination and mandatory mask-wearing.

Lambda opened in February, in defiance of the province’s requirement for liquor-primary establishments to remain closed, citing that its right to non-enforcement of the order was protected legislation that led to the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act. On Feb. 16 the province eased its restriction on bars to allow them to open, provided they obtain proof of vaccination from patrons and require them to wear masks. Lambda was served with a closure order from health authorities on Feb. 9 which was rescinded eight days later when the new health orders took effect, but another was issued two days later when Northern Health inspectors observed the downtown bar admitting patrons without requesting proof of vaccination. The inspectors also noted Lambda failed to post signs to show customers that vaccine proof and masks were required.

Lambda re-opened on April 8.