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Greater Victoria’s oldest pub survived flu pandemic; in good shape to survive COVID

Six Mile Pub and Eatery planned ahead to be ready to serve patrons – if you’re vaccinated
John Rocher, chief experience officer at the Six Mile Pub and Eatery is masked up and ready to pour. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

B.C.’s oldest pub is feeling confident about the next leg of COVID-19.

After all, it’s not their first major pandemic.

The Six Mile Pub and Eatery in View Royal was established in 1855 and survived the influenza pandemic of 1918-19. Not that anyone who lived through it still works at the pub, but the establishment has proven it’s got staying power.

After 18 months of ever-changing COVID-19 safety rules, CEO (chief experience officer) John Rocher has learned to weather the changes by planning four months ahead. He’s hiring staff before he needs them, ordering glassware and cutlery four months before they break and more. All in preparation for, well, it’s hard to say, but at least Rocher won’t be caught with chipped beer mugs.

The restaurant and pub has already survived one season of “no mask, no service,” so he’s not worried about the next one, nor does the prospect of checking customers’ vaccine cards phase him. It won’t be so different from contact tracing, he said.

ALSO READ: Enforcement of B.C. vaccine cards sparks concern over resources for police

Throughout the pandemic, he said the Six Mile has tried to exceed public health orders to make staff and customers feel safe. They kept wearing masks even when it wasn’t required, and have kept up in-house rules stopping diners from mingling between tables, even on bustling social nights.

Whether he’d ever require staff to get vaccinated is another question. Rocher said most, if not all, staff are already vaccinated, but could it become an interview question for new hires? He’s not sure that’s even legal.

“I’m not allowed to ask how old someone is, except to make sure they can serve alcohol, so could I ask about vaccination status? I don’t even know,” he said.

Six Mile’s little garden of herbs and greens has come in handy when supply chains were interrupted, but the pub has focused on local ingredients for several years, so global interruptions were less of a concern. Glassware was the main thing they struggled to keep in stock.

READ MORE: Former B.C. attorney general Barry Penner wants to see mandatory vaccinations for teachers

Up the hill at Elements Casino, staff are similarly taking the new rules in stride. Unlike the Six Mile, the casino only reopened on July 1. But on a recent Tuesday, the parking lot and slot machines were full.

Almost all of the casino’s staff of over 200 people returned to their jobs, which spokesperson Chuck Keeling said was a huge upside. He’s confident they’ll be able to implement the new vaccine card requirement, particularly given the level of security measures they already have in place.

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