Covid-19: Bakery feels targeted by anti-mandate 'fanatics'

The introduction of vaccine passes and the traffic light system has seen many businesses operating at full capacity once again, but one Christchurch bakery says it’s put a target on its back.

The owner of Kidd’s Cakes & Bakery, Martin Meehan, said his bakery was being targeted by anti-mandate “fanatics” since vaccine passes came into use, while the Government’s U-turn on changing the rules allowing takeaway staff to be unvaccinated had opened “Pandora’s box”.

The introduction of vaccine passes and the traffic light system has seen many businesses operating at full capacity once again, but some customers are making themselves a nuisance in protest of the system. (File photo)
Alex Burton
The introduction of vaccine passes and the traffic light system has seen many businesses operating at full capacity once again, but some customers are making themselves a nuisance in protest of the system. (File photo)

He said some customers had tried to make a point, ranting at and abusing staff, and doing their best to damage the reputation of his business by leaving negative reviews and bad ratings online.

Under the Orange setting, which came into effect 10 days ago, hospitality venues can open with no restrictions if they follow vaccination pass requirements, but food and beverage services that offer takeaways must follow retail rules, which include mask-wearing, one-metre physical distancing and capacity limits.

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Meehan was happy to comply with the regulations, but was so concerned for his staff he felt he might have to stand at the door himself to stop known trouble-makers coming in.

On one occasion, a man entered the bakery, grabbed a soft drink and started drinking it, and when asked for his vaccine pass, replied: “No – what are you going to do about it?”

Martin Meehan, who owns Kidd’s Cakes & Bakery in Christchurch, says customers angry at the company for enforcing vaccination pass rules have taken their frustrations online, tarnishing the firm’s reputation.
Joseph Johnson/Stuff
Martin Meehan, who owns Kidd’s Cakes & Bakery in Christchurch, says customers angry at the company for enforcing vaccination pass rules have taken their frustrations online, tarnishing the firm’s reputation.

Another customer, who he asked to show a vaccine pass, told staff they should be “bloody ashamed” of themselves.

“They’re on a mission, and it’s very distressing to the staff,” Meehan said.

The bakery has just appointed the Christchurch Wizard as a spiritual advisor, Meehan said, with part of his role being to cast out demons and fight fanatics of all kinds. “When we did, that we didn’t expect these fanatics – we may have to get him in full-time.”

At the Riverside Market, Japanese eatery Ramen Ria offered both takeaway and dine-in options. Staff member Kyle Parker said despite some initial confusion, people had grown used to the rules, with only around one in 20 customers against the mandate.

Cassidy Chambers, a barista at Empire Coffee, also in Riverside Market, said it was rare to see someone angry at staff the rules.

Businesses at Riverside Market in Christchurch say people have grown used to vaccine passes after initial confusion.
Amanda Cropp/Stuff
Businesses at Riverside Market in Christchurch say people have grown used to vaccine passes after initial confusion.

General manager of the Oxford Group, which runs Fat Eddies, Original Sin and The Bog in Christchurch, Janelle Pritchard said there was the “odd customer who presented a bit of aggression at the point of entry”, but they were “few and far between”.

Some people refused to show vaccine passes, but the bars had been “very busy”.

Scanning vaccine passes had become part of the process of checking ID, and although it slowed entry, the system “couldn’t have come at a better time”, she said. “We’re back at full, normal trading.”

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Leeann Watson said businesses were mostly just “getting on with it”, but some confusion remained around sitting, scanning vaccine passes, and when to wear a mask.

Businesses had expressed concerns customers would take “frustration out on the frontline”, but it didn’t appear to have eventuated, she said. “It’s quite surprising how quickly it’s become the norm.”

While some businesses were busier with the mandate in place, owner of the award-winning OGB bar and Austin Club, Nick Inkster, said a drop in regular customers who weren’t vaccinated had been “really noticeable” – business hadn’t peaked like it normally would in other years during the festive season.

Despite that, vaccine passes had “worked a dream”. Customers usually had their passes out before they’d even reached the door, and they hadn’t had issues with fakes.“Once [people are] in the venue, it’s back to normal,” he said. "It’s been quite refreshing.”

Reports from a North Island bar owner of turning away 50 people in one night for using fake vaccine passes do not seem to be echoed elsewhere.

In the capital, Shepherd Elliot, owner of Shepherd Restaurant, said his staff hadn’t had any problems, or spotted any fake IDs.

His staff were visually checking IDs rather than scanning them with the app, in the name of keeping things simple.

The system was working well, and had lessened the anxiety among his staff. “I know people have found it’s more work, but I don’t think it’s that big a deal, myself,” Elliot said.

According to one bar owner, good signage helps a lot with communication vaccine requirements. (File photo)
According to one bar owner, good signage helps a lot with communication vaccine requirements. (File photo)

El Barrio manager Pablo Rios said the new system had helped business a lot. “We thought we would be struggling more,” he said.

Their bouncers were checking vaccine passes against photo ID, and even they hadn’t reported noticing any fake passes.

General manager and owner of the Waitoa Social Club in Hataitai, Mark Davey, said the same. The few occasions where people hadn’t been able to present their pass had been honest mistakes, like a regular customer having left their phone at home.

In the days leading up to its implementation, anxieties had been high, especially among duty managers scared of getting it wrong. The bar installed iPads at every entrance to make it easy for staff to scan people in.

“Good signage helps,” Davey said. “We have a friendly sign on the door, and put out messaging on our social media to let people know we’re pro-vaccination.”

He had noticed a few people arriving, and then leaving again upon reading the sign, but that had been a small minority. “If people don’t want to participate in general goodness, they probably aren’t the sort to come out to bars anyway.”