Jab or no jab, Stefan will serve everything. He is not alone

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“I categorically refuse to become a vaccination agent,” says Stefan Roth behind the wheel of his delivery truck in east Melbourne.

“As a businessman, I will deliver my inventory to anyone, anywhere, whenever they want, without discrimination, period.”

Stefan Roth is one of a growing number of Melbourne companies that present themselves as ‘non-discriminatory’.Credit:Eddie jim

Mr Roth’s food delivery business has been contactless since the start of the pandemic. He takes orders online and leaves his cakes and sweets at the door of his buyers.

Victoria’s COVID-19 jab warrant, enforced in almost all public places from Friday, has little impact on her day-to-day functioning.

Still, Mr Roth’s Alpen Delicious is part of a growing category of Victorian businesses touting themselves as “non-discriminatory,” promising to serve customers regardless of their immunization status as the state opens up.

“I’m sending a message: if you receive a product from someone and they cause you grief because of your decision about the vaccine, there is an alternative,” continues Mr Roth, who says he received his first. dose of AstraZeneca last. the week.

The individual entrepreneur admits that he is motivated in part by the prospect of securing additional business, appealing to all segments of society. Likewise, he admits that his “non-discriminatory” stance could discourage some customers.

“But that’s why I take all the precautions I take when making a delivery. My approach is the same no matter how wary you are of COVID. “

As part of the national plan to reopen, Victorians must demonstrate that they have been fully vaccinated to enter pubs, shop in retail stores, have their hair cut or undergo a beauty procedure starting on Friday. .

Melbourne's hotel scene reopened on Friday, with full proof of vaccination required for dinner.

Melbourne’s hotel scene reopened on Friday, with full proof of vaccination required for dinner.Credit:Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

A “non-discriminatory” economy emerges in response. Online directories allow businesses to provide their credentials, and equivalent Facebook communities have also grown. A group specifically for the Mornington Peninsula has drawn nearly 9,000 members.

Many companies – in particular the places of reception – chose to remain to carry out only on the principle of the opposition to “discriminations”.

Many others, seemingly unfazed by the threat of state government fines of up to $ 109,000, have announced their willingness to serve unvaccinated visitors despite the law.

Operators from all walks of life offer their services: hairdressers, speech therapists, swimming teachers, jewelers, guitar teachers, solar installers, school teachers, yoga teachers, electricians, mixed martial arts rooms, lawyers and, like Mr. Roth, delivery drivers.

A Greek restaurant has made a commitment to continue serving its loukoumades (Greek donuts) to all customers, regardless of their vaccination status.

“At the end of the day, once this is all over, I would like people to know that I have stayed true to myself.”

Kaity Marsh freestanding dressing table

No company planning to open up to the unvaccinated was willing to speak publicly with Age for they feared punishment. However, an esthetician said she has contacted clients to let them know that her Melbourne salon will not check vaccination passports.

“I grew up listening to abuse for my skin color and I simply refuse to apply any form of discrimination,” she said. Age. “I have cameras installed in my store and if the police want to fine me, I’ll tell them I’m going to wipe my ass with them.”

Like Mr. Roth, Kaity Marsh has listed her home hairdressing business on an “all welcome” directory – although she does not plan to open in the immediate future.

Ms Marsh, 31, says she is reluctant to get vaccinated and even more reluctant to demand that her clients be vaccinated.

But the financial reality encroaches on its principles. She has hundreds of dollars in deposits she may have to return and will likely cancel a lucrative reservation at a wedding next month.

“I’m not afraid of losing a client or having a discussion about it,” she says. “I decided to list myself as non-discriminatory because it fits who I am. At the end of the journey, once this is all over, I would like people to know that I stayed true to myself.

Kaity Marsh is in a dilemma as she juggles between her principles and her income.

Kaity Marsh is in a dilemma as she juggles between her principles and her income.Credit:Chris Hopkins

After sharing her position on her personal and professional social media pages, Ms. Marsh has been hit hard by the polarized and emotional debate that abounds with those who refuse to be vaccinated.

Some clients have asked her if she could serve them and claim they were friends visiting her home – allowed under the restrictions – while others, including her close circle, assaulted her.

“I have a vaccine reservation for the end of next month, but I’m waiting to see how everything goes. Really, I hope this mandate will go away.

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews insists it won’t be anytime soon. He warned this week that restrictions for unvaccinated people would extend “until 2022”, at least until the Formula 1 Grand Prix in April.

This is a more vehement stance than in NSW, where restrictions on unvaccinated people will be lifted on December 1.

Victoria’s licensed worker mandate is also the largest in the country, estimated at 1.25 million people, including hospitality workers, teachers, police and state members.

The Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines available in Australia are safe and extremely effective, including against the Delta variant of COVID-19.

France and Italy are among the countries to have imposed vaccines for entry into indoor sites such as restaurants. The same goes for New York, where fines of up to US $ 5,000 ($ 6,900) apply, predictably sparking fury from some patrons who have lambasted the premises as promoting segregation. – a trend that is already appearing in Victoria.

Across the United States, an Italian restaurant in California demanded proof he was not vaccinated to enter.

“We have zero tolerance for betrayal, anti-American stupidity,” said a sign at the door of Paste E Vino de Basilico.

While such a sentiment is less prevalent in Victoria, where more than 90% of the population has received at least one dose, Lisa McKay, publicist for Grand Hotel Healesville, said her decision not to open to guests on Friday is supported by the vast majority of them. community.

“One problem is the staff. Only a quarter of the employees I need to operate the pub have been fully trapped (as required by the state). Even if I had the workers, I wouldn’t open yet, ”says McKay.

Lisa McKay, cabaret owner at the Grand Hotel Healesville.  “Even if I had the workers, I wouldn't open yet.

Lisa McKay, cabaret owner at the Grand Hotel Healesville. “Even if I had the workers, I wouldn’t open yet.Credit:Joe armao

She concedes that her position cannot last forever: she will operate the Grand Hotel on the eastern outskirts of Melbourne, to take away only as long as it is financially viable.

“We refuse to divide our community based on their vaccination status. If we only open to some, it will be a very sad day, ”said the tax collector.

“All our regulars have no problem with our decision. Those who are doubly stung are quite disappointed not to be able to come for a beer and a meal, but they completely understand. We will hold out as long as possible. “

More restaurants have taken to social media to express a similar position, from Brightbird Espresso in Warrnambool to Pizza Farro in downtown Fitzroy, which says denying some diners “isn’t what we are saying. defend ”.

For all businesses that illegally serve the unvaccinated, the state government says up to 100 teams of authorized officers will patrol, with the option to issue fines ranging from $ 1,817 to $ 109,044, plus the threat. to be taken to court.

University of Melbourne marketing and e-commerce expert Dr Brent Coker says choosing one side of a busy debate can be a dangerous game for business.

“Because he ostracizes people who disagree. Small businesses often don’t realize they’re taking a potentially polarizing stance, ”he says.

Instead, the companies believe they are extending a branch of support for people who choose not to or cannot get vaccinated, according to Dr Coker.

“Maybe they’re thinking ‘great, if I go to those who don’t have the jab I’m taking a neglected part of the market.’ But the reality may be that if there is a large part of people who do not agree with this point of view, it can turn away customers, ”he said.

“It can be effective in some cases, if a brand sells its history as advocating for the minority, which aren’t necessarily rampant anti-vaccines. I just think that right now there is negativity in society against those who push back.

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