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SGEU calls inclusion of liquor stores in vaccination mandate "abrupt, inconsistent"

Liquor store owners are feeling harried following the launch of the province's proof of vaccination policy last week, after previously being told they would not be included in the mandate.
liquor store wine
Some liquor stores have been added to the province's proof of vaccination list as retailers, while some are not.

REGINA — Just days after the provincial proof of vaccination policy came into effect, SGEU is expressing concerns with the last-minute inclusion of liquor retailers and the potential long term effects on the industry.

Sharon Friess, chair of the SGEU Liquor and Gaming Authority bargaining unit, said that the union is unimpressed with the rollout of the proof of vaccination policy.

“We’ve been living through this pandemic for a year and a half. There’s no longer any excuse for this kind of ill-prepared, knee-jerk decision-making around public health,” said Friess.

SGEU said the muddled inclusion of liquor stores in the public health order, which came into effect on Friday, was “abrupt [and] inconsistent.”

Standalone liquor stores, which have their own entrance for customers, were previously said to be exempt from the incoming proof of vaccination policy.

During the province’s announcement of the policy on Sept. 28, liquor and cannabis retailers had been added to the list of businesses required to check vaccination status of their customers. 

Integrated liquor stores, that sell liquor inside a grocery store or another business, remained the exception.

Liquor stores were given just two days warning that they would be included in the incoming mandate, said SGEU. Many business owners have said it left them scrambling to prepare last minute.

“Other businesses had two weeks of advance notice; our industry was expected to react with only two days. Now retail workers are facing harassment by customers who were led to expect that there’d be no proof-of-vaccination requirement at liquor stores,” said Friess.

Friess also said that the inclusion of only standalone liquor stores in the vaccination mandate has created an “unfair double standard.” 

“Essentially, the government has told all unvaccinated people to shop at one particular type of liquor store,” said Friess. “This heightens the risk of infection for workers and other patrons at integrated stores and means a loss of business for standalone stores.”

Opposition critic Aleana Young has also said that many business owners, not just liquor stores, are feeling overwhelmed with the new policy, due to a lack of information provided by the government.

She criticized the provincial government’s actions leading up to the release of the public health order.

“I think if your public health order is more exceptions than rules, that's a problem. If the public health order is top secret until the day it rolls out, that's a problem,” said Young. 

Speaking to media on Tuesday, she called for more clarity from provincial officials for business owners, to alleviate anxieties.

“Businesses are frustrated that they don't know whether they're a fast food establishment or whether they're a cafe. Patrons have to be vaccinated but staff do not,” said Young.

“People want consistency, and they want to know before the morning they’re supposed to act, what it is they’re supposed to be doing to keep themselves, keep their staff and keep the public safe.”