Vaccinated or not vaccinated? Regina’s brewpub introduces vaccine-only section

REGINA — Entering the Bushwakker Brewpub during a lunchtime rush, Darlene Woywoda looked for the vaccinated section.

Woywoda, 69, was meeting friends and they decided to dine in the Arizona Room – a 50-seat space reserved for guests fully immune to COVID-19.

Woywoda’s sentiment was reminiscent of the days when hostesses greeted diners with the phrase, “Smoking or non-smoking?” before cigarettes were banned in restaurants.

“My husband and I were talking about companies having to do something like this with COVID-19 vaccinations,” Woywoda said.

“Except that the smoke can infiltrate from one area to another, whereas here (the air) is more contained.”

The Arizona Room at the Bushwakker Brewpub was once a space for birthday and retirement parties, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Customers no longer wanted to gather in large groups, said bar manager Grant Frew.

The room is now reserved for the exclusive use of fully vaccinated people – although Saskatchewan ended its vaccination passport requirement on February 14.

Arizona Room perks include private restrooms, servers that are also fully vaccinated, and a separate ventilation system from the restaurant’s main room, which can accommodate an additional 200 people, vaccinated and unvaccinated.

“I was told never to bring politics and religion into a bar, but it seemed to happen inadvertently, which caused quite a bit of controversy,” Frew said in an interview.

Bushwakker introduced the separate section after longtime customers of the 31-year-old brewery said they would not return for some time after the province scrapped its vaccine passport.

“When I heard that, well, that didn’t make me feel very good obviously. We’re trying to pull ourselves out of this economic disaster that the pandemic has caused to the entire hospitality industry,” Frew said. .

“We thought why not create this space where they can feel safe and comfortable, because that’s always first and foremost what we want to do.”

The president of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association says the move is a good idea.

“Each operator must make decisions that are in the best interest of their business,” said Jim Bence, who said Bushwakker Brewpub is, so far, unique in its approach.

“Bushwakker responds to what their customers tell them and adapts its model to meet that need.”

While most people welcomed the pub’s decision, Frew said there has been pushback online. People have suggested the company is isolating people or accusing the brewing company of creating a divide.

“That’s not the case at all. It’s just a room we wanted to provide for those with health problems. It’s a temporary measure. Segregation and division was not our intention,” said Frew, who added that unvaccinated customers can still dine in the main room.

The brewery is likely to keep its policy in place for a few more months, he said. Saskatchewan is preparing to lift its mask mandate on Feb. 28 and will no longer require those who test positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate.

Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, said many clients are looking for alternatives now that government policy no longer requires vaccination status to be displayed.

“It’s a workaround,” he said.

“They’re still not comfortable mingling with unvaccinated people, and they still don’t want to get (the) Omicron (variant), even though it may be less serious than Delta.”

Sections fully vaccinated or not, Muhajarine said, people can still reduce their risk of catching COVID-19 by dining out by following the basics: wear a mask, test yourself before going out and stay home. if you are sick.

For her part, Woywoda said she loves the ward for fully vaccinated people and encourages other companies to do the same.

“That alleviates all our worries.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 21, 2022.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press