A Napanee business owner who posted what he considered a well-intentioned video to Facebook about why he wouldn’t turn away unvaccinated people has had a change of mind due to pressure from his landlord and KFL&A Public Health.
Jay Bradley, President of Disco Ball Events Rollerskating, initially posted the video on Wednesday, Sep. 29, 2021, in which he explains, “a little bit about our decision not to enforce the passport mandate,” with respect to COVID-19.
In the video he points out, “We are a safe environment; we clean all the time, and we put our masks on all the time. We are following the rules. [The vaccine mandate] asks us to ask if you’re vaccinated. We do ask that question, we just don’t turn people away.”
Bradley explains that the business asks the vaccination status of each patron on the written waiver they must fill out before entering the roller rink. “We also record temperatures. And we also record where you live, who you are, and your phone number. So, I think we’re doing enough, and I think we offer a happy, safe COVID safe environment.”
What Bradley doesn’t understand, he says, is the “seemingly arbitrary nature” of the mandate.
“I’m vaccinated, but my staff doesn’t have to be vaccinated, and they want us to turn people away who are not vaccinated. It doesn’t make sense to me,” he explains.
“So, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is only a ‘legal matter’ because the Ontario Provincial Government owns businesses, as well as runs hospitals. So some lawyer has gotten in there somewhere, and strongly suggested to them that they put something in place, otherwise they can get sued if somebody catches COVID in a hospital.”
Bradley has spent “a good deal of time working with and for the Department of National Defence” as a technology project manager, he explains, which has influenced his thinking on the matter. “I work a lot with the legal matters in project management. And this passport that they’re enforcing, first of all, they have no resources to enforce it. They’re just putting a mandate out there, and they are just letting us battle it out as peasants.”
“So this is my humble opinion, I could be wrong, but I wanted everybody to know why I’ve decided not to enforce the passport mandate. Think about it, who’s going to enforce it? Who’s going to come to your business as a mom and pop [shop], and give us a ticket?” he asks rhetorically.
He answers, “I don’t know who, because it’s not the KFL&A [Public Health], and it wouldn’t be the police. I would say, in my humble opinion, it’s only a legal matter. And if you’re vaccinated, what’s the issue? If you’re not vaccinated, then you’re making that choice.”
“So, hopefully everybody can stand behind me on this decision because what we represent as a roller skating rink is all about: inclusion, equality, acceptance,” Bradley concludes.
“Hopefully, everybody takes this with a grain of salt, and no more shaming, please, it doesn’t make sense, especially when we get shamed, but Walmart can let anybody in and they’re not maintaining 6 feet [physical distancing], you know they aren’t.”
In a follow-up interview on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, Bradley said that the video received both positive and negative responses and, as a result, an inspector from KFL&A Public Health did come to his establishment on Friday, Oct 1, 2021. This was followed by a separate visit from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. According to Bradley, both visits were prompted by complaints from people who saw the video, but had never visited Disco Ball.
Bradley is very passionate about his establishment, extolling the virtues of having a place where young people can have “good clean fun and not get into trouble.”
“My vision here was this: we had this when we were kids, I’m 47 years old and we had this at Studio 801,” he said, referring to the popular youth hangout on Development Drive in Kingston (which later became Celebrity Sports World) that offered roller skating, bowling, an arcade and more. “So, we know that we miss that for our kids today. There’s nothing for kids to do, especially trying to get kids off the tablets. I have a 10-year-old, I have a seven-year-old, and that’s kind of my vision.”
“I have a lot of memories of going doing lipsync contests and doing dance contests and we were really creative about it. And I didn’t realize this then, but it was more artistic than it was sports, so I always look at kids today and they need arts, as well. So, I look at this venue like an arts venue,” he explained.
“Before COVID, our numbers were about 160 people per event, that was our average and on Showcase Saturdays, we would have 18 and under talent perform. So that’s what that stage is for and basically, it gives them the ‘real deal’ sort of feeling.”
Now, with the Pandemic, the rollerskating rink gives people a chance to go out and do something physical, fun, and not stressful, Bradley expressed.
“It’s good for mental health, and we don’t want to ruin that for people by turning them away,” he said.
However, just a few short hours after the interview, Bradley received word from the Napanee Fair Board (which owns the arena he has converted for his business), saying that he would need to follow the letter of the law. In a text message, Bradley wrote, “The fair board just notified me that I need to comply or they will get a ticket. I don’t want that to happen. Looks like I’ll be enforcing the rules anyway. If the fair board wasn’t in jeopardy I wouldn’t comply. Wish me luck and, hopefully, I don’t lose customers.”
Bradley had earlier expressed worry that turning away customers could be bad for business. He stated, “I’m following the rules, but I have a real hard time turning people away, especially if they’re going to drive all the way from Belleville, Kingston, Tamworth, Picton, Toronto. I can’t turn people away, It just does not make sense.”
“Wouldn’t you enforce companies large and small, public or private, to get staff vaccinated before you ask companies to turn customers away?” he asked, expressing that the logic of the mandate is baffling.
“When you turn a customer away, they don’t care if [the vaccine mandate] is real, it looks bad. I had a Montreal crew come down and they were mad at me that I asked them to put their mask on. They left. ‘Oh, I can’t believe I have to put my mask on.’ People don’t do their research. They don’t realize the news. They watch Facebook.”
Bradley explained that the majority of the people attending his venue right now are not local.
“It’s a tough thing. Turning customers away has a long-term effect, it’s not short-term,” he said.
“Hey, I’m okay, being proven wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I just think that turning people away because of something that was enforced in a backwards way, and then closing me down because of it, is not the right way to do it.”
However, despite his convictions, Bradley doesn’t want his landlord, the Napanee Fair Board, to get a fine, so he has decided to comply. He has even turned it into a bit of a challenge to his customers, posting on Facebook:
“So I’m making this the THANKSGIVING WEEKEND PROVE JAY WRONG CHALLENGE !!! My opinion is we have more unvaccinated people supporting us by coming rollerskating. Let’s see if all the vaccinated people can prove me wrong. I’m sorry to all the unvaccinated but the powers that be are forcing me to turn your business away. Shame on them… but… let’s see if their plan works. Every COVID safety measures are in place. Proof of vaccine is required this weekend. And… GO!”
Bradley said that he wants his establishment to be a home for a community of people, where they can enjoy being themselves, not being judged, and just spend time having fun together.
“At night, when the lights are off, it changes. It’s very magical. It’s the only word I can say for it,” he said. “It’s bigger than what I thought it would be.”