When the entire staff at People’s Pint Brewing Company became fully vaccinated last week, owner Doug Appeldoorn wanted to tell the world.
“We don’t require our staff to get vaccinated, but our goal is to make people feel safe,” he said. “So, we wanted to celebrate that.”
The Toronto brewery posted about it on Instagram on Thursday. The next day, Mr. Appeldoorn found his company listed on safetodo.ca, a recent website that published the names of businesses in Ontario with fully inoculated staff. Shortly after People’s Pint made the list, its Google reviews page started getting one-star ratings. Mr. Appeldoorn said that before last week, his establishment had never received anything below four stars.
People’s Pint was one of approximately 30 businesses and groups across the province – universities, strip clubs, gyms and physiotherapy clinics – featured on safetodo.ca. The website was taken down on Tuesday after the businesses listed there experienced an onslaught of bad reviews, false reservations and hateful messages from antivaccination groups and individuals.
The site’s founder, Brandon Mattalo, a Toronto lawyer, wrote on Twitter that he never expected those named on the web page to become the targets of anti-vaxxers and even less to receive “increasingly personal, directed and hateful” messages, one of which he felt compelled to report to police.
“I cannot, therefore, in good conscience continue to add businesses to the website, because I cannot be certain that they will not be attacked by the same people,” he wrote on Twitter. Mr. Mattalo declined to comment for this story.
His goal had been simply to provide a resource for people with low risk tolerance or medical conditions that made them more vulnerable to COVID-19. And over all, the website’s outcomes had been mostly positive, Mr. Mattalo wrote, with one of the businesses listed receiving more than 100,000 views on its page since it was posted on safetodo.ca.
The site was taken down shortly after a member of Hugs over Masks NL, the Newfoundland chapter of a countrywide antimask group, sent an e-mail to its supporters in Ontario, encouraging them to “send these business owners a piece of your mind.” The e-mail includes the contact information for 31 of the businesses that appeared on safetodo.ca.
As of Tuesday, 80 per cent of Canadians 12 and older have been vaccinated at least once. Mr. Appeldoorn said he thinks those with antivaccination views represent a small minority of Canada’s population.
“The majority of people commenting on our social media have been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “It’s just this minority is very vocal and very dangerous.”
Filmores, a strip club in downtown Toronto, has weathered angry messages since it was listed on safetodo.ca last week, just days after announcing that proof of vaccination will be required for entry. Since then, entertainment manager Kaspar Cameron said, the angry phone calls and e-mails he is receiving have been “nuts.”
Mr. Cameron does not blame the website for spurring the trolls but rather the Ontario government’s decision not to implement some version of a vaccine passport like in Quebec or Manitoba, which he said leaves the onus on businesses to take stands around vaccinations and endure the blowback. He does not plan to react to the hate.
“I’d rather have people healthy and safe and alive being able to bang on their keyboards and send me all the hate mail they want,” he said.
Ron Keefe, the owner of Granite Brewery in Toronto, said he did not realize his business was listed on safetodo.ca. He first became aware of hate directed at his bar on Tuesday, when a health professional frequenting the bar tweeted about the staff, applauding them for being fully vaccinated.
“I guess there was a big backlash online, people saying we should go bankrupt, but to me it was a tempest in a teapot,” said Mr. Keefe, whose business does not require staff to be inoculated.
He said he pays little attention to insults on the internet and that his greater concern is whether vaccine hesitancy could force his brewery to close again.
“Are they going to continue to force to shut us down” because 10 or 15 per cent of people don’t want to get vaccinated, he said. “Eighty per cent of us have done our part.”
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