Vaccination divide too great for businesses fearing backlash over denial of service

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Some businesses on the north coast of New South Wales have elected to close their doors for the next six weeks, amid unease over rules surrounding customers and vaccination.

From today, those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed into certain venues, including cafes, restaurants, and non-critical retail stores, as part of the NSW COVID-19 roadmap.

The enforcement will be in place until December 1, when those who are not fully vaccinated will have the same freedoms.

In Coffs Harbour, cafe owner Michelle Collard said it can be difficult to “turn people away” in hospitality.

“We’re just going to do takeaway, so we don’t have to turn anybody away.”

“If we have to take a hit financially it’s more important for us to be fair to everybody.

“We are not only protecting our staff against stress and hostility from people who might show resistance, but also our customers having any added stress.

Ms Collard said staff and customers have been supportive of the decision.

“It’s been overwhelming. I think they realise we are here for the whole community.”

Fully vaccinated regular Ann Morgan said she was disappointed.

“This is the whole point in being doubled vaccinated; you can go in and have a coffee,” Ms Morgan said.

“The people who aren’t vaccinated … why should they rush out and get vaccinated when in two months’ time, we’ll all be in the same boat?”

Businesses field cancellations

In Byron Bay, nail salon owner Georgia Whittaker said cancellations have been coming in since the announcement.

“I put out a post on Instagram saying we have to comply, and we started getting cancellation after cancellation,” she said.

“I think it’s unfair to say to someone you are unable to have this service when you were able to [yesterday].

“Byron is such a tourist town, I suppose the good thing is the people traveling will be double-vaxxed, but it’s our locals who get us through those harder times.

Ms Whittaker said some of her fully vaccinated clients have also decided to boycott her service.

“That really hurts, you build a relationship with these people over time,” she said.

“The divide is quite upsetting.

‘Freedom day’ stoking fear

Retail owner in Coffs Harbour Pam Williams said while most customers have been compliant some are disruptive, and she fears it will worsen.

“They come in and say ‘we don’t need to wear a mask’; they’re just testing the waters I think,” she said.

“We don’t want the backlash.”

“It’s scary leaving the staff here by themselves.

Other retailers are making adjustments to comply with the new rules.

Jeweller Michael Cleary said they will close their doors and let customers in “one by one” in order to check their status.

“It will be trial and error as I’m not sure people know how to carry their vaccine passports on their phones.”

“It’s not an easy road to navigate.

Business NSW regional manager Jane Laverty says the next few months will be a challenge for business operators and is pleading with customers to help businesses manage.

“On behalf of business we are asking our community to give them every bit of support as they can and make it easy for them to manage the health orders,” she said.

“We are all in this together.”

(Original ABC Article)