When all of the People’s Pint Brewing Company’s staff were fully vaccinated last week, owner Doug Appeldoorn wanted to let the world know.
“We don’t require our employees to get vaccinated, but our goal is to make people feel safe,” he said. “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 new website that published the names of companies in Ontario with fully vaccinated employees. Shortly after People’s Pint made the list, its Google reviews page received one-star ratings. Mr Appeldoorn said his house had never received anything under four stars before last week.
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People’s Pint was one of about 30 companies and groups across the province – universities, strip clubs, gyms, and physical therapy clinics – featured on safetodo.ca. The website shut down Tuesday after the companies listed there experienced an onslaught of bad reviews, false reservations, and hateful messages from vaccination opponents and individuals.
The website’s founder, Brandon Mattalo, a Toronto attorney, wrote on Twitter that he never expected the people named on the website to be targeted by anti-Vaxxers and even less received “increasingly personal, targeted and hateful” messages one of which he felt compelled to report to the police.
“So I can’t keep adding companies to the site in good conscience because I can’t be sure they won’t be attacked by the same people,” he wrote on Twitter. Mr Mattalo declined to comment on this story.
His goal had simply been to provide a resource for people with low risk tolerance or medical conditions that made them more susceptible to COVID-19. And overall the results of the website were mostly positive, wrote Mr. Mattalo one of the companies listed has received more than 100,000 views on its site since it was posted on safetodo.ca.
The site came up shortly after a member of Hugs over Masks NL, the Newfoundland chapter of a nationwide anti-masking group, emailed its supporters in Ontario encouraging them to “send an opinion to these business owners.” The email contains the contact information of 31 of the companies that have appeared on safetodo.ca.
As of Tuesday, 80 percent of Canadians 12 and over had been vaccinated at least once. Mr Appeldoorn said he believed those with anti-vaccination views were a small minority of Canada’s population.
“The majority of the people who have commented on our social media have been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “This minority is just very vocal and very dangerous.”
Filmores, a downtown Toronto strip club, has weathered angry news since it was posted on safetodo.ca last week, just days after it was announced that it would require proof of vaccination to enter. Since then, said entertainment manager Kaspar Cameron, the angry phone calls and emails he receives have been “crazy”.
Mr. Cameron does not blame the website for spurring the trolls on, but rather the Ontario government’s decision not to introduce a version of a vaccine passport like in Quebec or Manitoba, which he said leaves it up to companies to take a stand against vaccination and endure the setback. He has no intention of responding to the hatred.
“I would prefer if people could hammer their keyboards healthy and safe and alive and send me as much hate mail as they want,” he said.
Ron Keefe, the owner of Toronto’s Granite Brewery, said he did not know his company was listed on safetodo.ca. He first became aware of hatred of his bar on Tuesday when a health professional who visited the bar tweeted about the staff and applauded them for being fully vaccinated.
“I guess there was a huge backlash online with people saying we should go bankrupt, but for me it was a storm in a teapot,” said Keefe, whose business doesn’t require vaccination of staff.
He said he paid little attention to internet insults and that his greater concern was whether hesitation on vaccines could force his brewery to close again.
“They will keep forcing us to shut down” because 10 or 15 percent of people don’t want to get vaccinated, he said. “Eighty percent of us did our part.”
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