NLVaxPass: Two Corner Brook businesspeople say app has been reliable, but customers reactions vary

A bar owner and a café manager say the NLVaxPass app has been easy to use. Most customers have abided by the new vaccine pass law, but some are defiant.

Brendyn Creamer

Retro Arcade and Sports Bar, located on West Street, Corner Brook, NL. It is one of many non-essential businesses that has been transitioning into using the NLVaxVerify app to scan vaccine passports.
Retro Arcade and Sports Bar, located on West Street, Corner Brook, is one of many non-essential businesses transitioning to the use of the NLVaxPass and NLVaxVerify apps. (Brendyn Creamer/Kicker)

Non-essential businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador began using the NLVaxPass and NLVaxVerify apps on Friday, Oct.22.

The Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government mandates the use of the QR code vaccine passport. In a news release on Oct. 7, Premier Andrew Furey said that these passports “add an extra layer of protection to ensure people can gather and participate in activities they enjoy.” He also said vaccine passports will help businesses remain open during the pandemic, in turn helping the economy.

Non-essential businesses scan QR codes from the NLVaxPass app using the NLVaxVerify app. Businesses must also check one piece of photo identification or two pieces non-photo identification. This is typically done before services are rendered. 

Businesses are adapting.

Retro Arcade and Sports Bar owner Connie Stevens said both the app and her business have been running smoothly since the vaccine passport’s introduction.

“Most people have been very agreeable about it, coming in and having the information ready,” Stevens said.

There are are some, however, who remain upset at the use of the passport system.

On Sunday, Oct. 31, Stevens had some guests enter without their passes ready to be scanned. These guests grew upset with the staff when they were denied entry. To Stevens, this incident shows that people against the passes are still willing to attempt entry even though businesses cannot legally allow them in.

Stevens’ process for scanning guests depends on the day. During most weeknights, she finds she and her staff can keep an eye on the 15 or so guests they have. They can typically scan them as they order.

If someone skips on ordering, she or a staff member will approach the individual.

On busier nights, Stevens said they post someone on the door. The employee will stamp the customer’s hand upon entry so that they don’t have to repeat the scanning process if they step out.

The only problem that Stevens found with the software had to do with the lighting. Neon lights and the hue of arcade machines set Retro aglow. This aesthetic can make scanning QR codes difficult. However, there is an easy fix for Stevens. She said that once she turns on the flash on her phone, the QR code will scan without issue.

Connie Stevens, preparing for Retro's Halloween event on Oct. 30. She says that the introduction of the VaxPass has not slowed her business.
Connie Stevens prepares for Retro’s Halloween event on Oct. 30. She says the introduction of the NLVaxPass has yet to slow her business. (Brendyn Creamer/Kicker)

Harbour Grounds, a café located in Corner Brook, is also adapting well to the use of the NLVaxPass and NLVaxVerify apps. 

Manager Sasha Lockyer finds that business has been steady since the NLVaxPass’ introduction. Harbour Grounds is a counter-service restaurant, making it easy for staff to scan those who are dining in. She did mention that the NLVaxVerify app can be a little slow at times and finds that lighting is a big factor in whether the scanner functions.

Overall, Lockyer finds the app user-friendly, but she added it would be nice if the app could store previous scans to make the process easier. At the moment, keeping an individual’s proof of vaccination and its verification can only be done with the individual’s explicit consent. 

Guidance for businesses

The Newfoundland and Labrador government had released a guide for businesses prior to Oct. 22. The guide details the steps that non-essential businesses should take towards scanning vaccine passes.

Businesses can accept physical and digital QR codes as proof of vaccination. They will also accept vaccination records from any province or territory within Canada.

As for medical exemptions, the provincial government only recognizes two of them. The first would be an anaphylactic reaction or severe allergy from a previous vaccine dose. The second would be a diagnosed episode of myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle) or pericarditis (an inflammation of the thin sac around the heart) after dosage. Both require a medical exemption letter.

Tickets can be issued by law enforcement if individuals or businesses do not comply. Depending on the violation, individuals could face a fine between $500 and $2,500, jail time up to six months, or both. Corporations could be fined from $5,000 to a maximum of $50,000. 

If an individual refuses to show proof of vaccination, businesses have a right to refuse service. They are encouraged to call 911 if an individual refuses to leave.

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