Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health said Wednesday she is happy with a meeting public health officials had with the George Street Association this week regarding bars following pandemic measures.
But the Department of Health is taking no chances.
Following two weekends of bars ignoring social-distancing guidelines — some of it caught on camera by patrons — the department has accepted an offer by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) to police the situation more closely.
Images and videos on social media showed patrons crowded together at two establishments in particular, Konfusion and the Rob Roy.
To that end, Health Minister Dr. John Haggie said Wednesday that existing health orders will be rewritten quickly to allow NLC inspectors to enter establishments to monitor compliance.
Haggie did not say what penalties might be expected but noted the NLC has the authority to issue and rescind liquor licences.
“I believe (the bar owners) are as interested and as eager to make this work as we are." — Dr. Janice Fitzgerald
“I feel that we’ve been very clear,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing. “We provided clear guidance to bar owners and we were very clear with people all along what we expected of them.”
She said the association representing bar owners in the area now gets the message.
“I believe that they are as interested and as eager to make this work as we are,” she said.
Haggie said there are also four formal complaints lodged with Service NL regarding the two clubs. That department has the authority to shut down work sites and facilities under health and safety guidelines.
“It really is a shame because it jeopardizes all of us and it really taints the efforts of a lot of bar owners, hoteliers and restaurateurs in St. John’s and around the province who have worked very hard and in very imaginative ways,” he said, singling out the Jag Hotel for its adjustments to bar and restaurant service.
“These premises, these businesses, suffer by association with the likes of what happened on George Street.”
Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health for The Telegram.