Unvaccinated Mahurangi residents will likely be prevented from getting a beer in a bar when the Government’s Covid traffic light system is introduced, but may be able to go to church to pray about it.
The system will start once 90 per cent of eligible residents are double vaccinated.
Hospitality businesses and churches will be able to remain open during each of the traffic light phases, but will face severe limitations on operating legally, unless they are willing to check those coming through the door are double vaccinated.
Bars, cafes and restaurants contacted by Mahurangi Matters have embraced the system and say they will insist patrons are double vaccinated or they will not be served.
But one Mahurangi church says it will refrain from requiring attendees to be vaccinated, while others say their policy on the issue is still being developed.
Tahi Bar owners Rachel Cooney and Gareth Hedges say once vaccines became available, it was inevitable that a proof-of-vaccination system would emerge especially in high-risk places such as bars where people can linger for hours without wearing masks.
“People naturally feel much safer in an environment where everybody is double-vaccinated. If these mandates were not happening, people would be very hesitant to come to a bar, but the mandates mean they will feel safe and want to come,” Mr Hedges says.
Ms Cooney agrees.
“The whole point of hospitality is about giving somebody somewhere where they can have a good time, where they can relax. None of that works if everybody is scared,” she says.
The couple remains resolute in their views even though it will mean having someone on the door checking patrons’ vaccination status and could lead to confrontations with those hostile to the policy.
“But it does not matter how much of a scene they make, they are not coming in,” Mr Hedges says.
Their views are echoed by owners of Aldo’s Restaurant, Fresh Café and Chocolate Brown. Aldo’s co-owner Susan Franckin says the freedom to come to a restaurant comes with obligations and responsibilities.
“We have to take responsibility for keeping everybody safe as well as ourselves and our staff,” she says.
Ms Franckin says if someone chooses to make a scene, they will be gently reminded what the mandate is, but suspects such confrontations will be rare.
“If we get to 90 per cent double-vaccinated I think that speaks for itself – it leaves only 10 per cent who have concerns,” she says.
Chocolate Brown and Bayside Bistro co-owner Susan Vize will also be implementing a “no vax, no service” policy and says the issue is not about personal rights but collective responsibility.
She says this is especially true given the Warkworth and Snells Beach areas have a high proportion of elderly people who need protection.
“All the customers I have been talking to want vaccination – they want to know the cafes are safe,” she says.
Ms Vize says without the mandate Chocolate Brown and Bayside would have to close for good, meaning the loss of 50 jobs for those employed over the busy summer period.
Fresh Café owner Gaye Rowland is also on board with the vaccination mandate though she says enforcing it is likely to be a logistical nightmare.
She says she will stand her ground if anyone wants to get stroppy about it.
“We have got to do what we have got to do to stay in business,” she says.
The Government is due to announce its decision on the traffic light system on November 29.
Churches wrestle with vaccine policy
Most churches failed to respond to Mahurangi Matters inquiries about their Covid vaccination policy and others either refused to say what their policy was or else said it was still being developed.
But Snells Beach Baptist pastor John DiCicco says his church has decided to refrain from requiring vaccination certificates.
“We have come to the conclusion that we must remain as available as possible in order to care for our Christian community, as well as to be a place of refuge for any from the wider community who may want to seek help in the midst of difficulties,” he says.
Meanwhile, Pastor Kris Baines, of the Community Bible Church in Wellsford, says the church’s policies and practices are not something they would be looking to air in a community publication.
“Each church has its own unique situation which can be easily misunderstood when not considered in context,” he says.
Elsewhere, Pastor Baines has been more outspoken. He is part of a Free To Be Church movement – sharply critical of Government regulation as it has applied to churches during Covid. On the Free To Be Church Facebook page he hosts a webinar entitled, “Why the Church Should Stay Open to the Vaccinated And The Unvaccinated” – arguing the unvaccinated should not be turned away from church.
Pastor Nick McLennan, of Mahurangi Presbyterian Church, says the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa is still working through its response to the Government regulations.
“On the one hand, we value freedom of worship without discrimination, yet at the same time we also have a responsibility to take care of those within our church family who are concerned for their health or the health of their family members,” he says.
Warkworth Anglican Parish vicar Peter Jenkins says his diocese is still looking at the question and is not expected to provide any guidance until next month.
“More broadly, the Anglican Church has been supportive of the vaccine roll-outs and we have been encouraging people to get vaccinated,” he says.