HALIFAX -- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on bars and restaurants in the Maritimes.

Those that did survive summer now have to worry about keeping track of visitors from outside of the Atlantic bubble -- including students.

Some establishments hope to deter rule breakers with some pretty serious consequences.

Staff at Halifax's Old Triangle are on high alert this September.

"There's definitely extra vigilance that's necessary right now," said owner Brendan Doherty."You know, we just went over it with all of our staff, reminding them that it is September, there are students coming back, you've got to be vigilant, but again, we've been doing this for two and a half months now since we opened back up."

This week, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of healthDr. Robert Strang said he was concerned after seeing photos of long lineups at Halifax bars.

"Our restaurants and licensed establishments have clear guidelines they must follow to operate safely, and we have enforcement and inspection in these facilities, but patrons also have to take responsibility for their behaviour and how it impacts others," Dr. Strang said.

A sign spotted outside of a Halifax bar last weekend warns anyone caught in the establishment while they should be self-isolating could be banned from 27 bars and restaurants for a minimum of a year as part of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia's "PASS Program."

"It stands for patron accountability safety and service," said Gordon Stewart, of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. "We started this program a little over eight years ago. It runs across Nova Scotia, it's a free program for bars and restaurants and it's meant to track people who cause serious problems to a bar or restaurant."

"It's good for all the bars to communicate, if any issues have been going on, it's nice to know what's happening at other bars so we don't get hit with it too," said restaurant manager Chris Dunham.

Last month, COVID-19 was added to the list of offences that could get you banned from participating bars and restaurants, along with fights, vandalism, and fake IDs.

"We haven't had many issues with people from outside of the province," Doherty said. "But the very few that we have had, once you've explained to them the current regulations they've understood and gone on their way."

Said Dunham: "When we have security on the door, I get them to ask if they have an out of province ID how long they've been here, it's hard to tell if they're telling the truth indeed, but we do ask everybody how long they've been in town and if they see they've quarantined for the 14 days, it's fine."

Stewart says nobody has been added to the PASS program for covid-19 restrictions yet, but the association hopes it deters visitors from breaking the rules, which can have a devastating cost for the establishment.

"If someone comes in and does have it, it spread to staff and the entire business is closed, and everybody loses their salary, the place closes for two weeks or more," Stewart said. "It's a serious problem if that happens."

Anyone who fails to self-isolate after arriving from outside the Atlantic bubble is also subject to a $1,000 fine.