Restaurants heat up when they ask for proof of vaccination


When Cowbell, a comfort food restaurant in New Orleans, began requiring proof of vaccination for indoor meals, some customers were less than happy.

Cowbell put the rule in place from July 29, announcing the requirement with a sign on its door and a post on its website. A few weeks later, on August 16, New Orleans started demanding diners inside show proof of vaccination or a recent negative result Covid-19 test.

“We got a few F-Bombs on day one,” said Brack May, co-owner of the restaurant with his wife Krista Pendergraft-May. Some people were angry when they were vaccinated.

“They were just like pissed off to have to show [their cards],” he said.

On two separate occasions, May recalled, there was a breakup when couples were asked to show proof of vaccination. “The wife was showing the card and the husband said, ‘I’m not doing that,’ and walked out,” he said.

The restaurant has also received messages criticizing its rule. A post viewed by CNN Business lays out conspiracy theories, calling it bogus Covid and the Flat Earth. May tried to explain her thinking behind the vaccine requirement by addressing some of the critics. “I called so many people [who complained] as I might say for me it’s a matter of courtesy, ”May explained. “It’s no different opening a door for someone. That’s what I feel.”

In a handful of American cities, including new York and San Francisco, people who eat inside restaurants must prove that they are vaccinated. Increasingly, restaurants outside of these cities are making their own rules, such as requiring vaccines or negative Covid-19 tests, in an effort to protect staff and customers.

Requiring proof of vaccination may seem like a clean solution: customers are vaccinated and allowed in – or not, and invited to dine out or take out take-out items.

But it is far from easy. Restaurants have received customer feedback and reviews in remote locations. Some do not know how to implement the rule or distinguish between serving guests and controlling their behavior.

“The challenge for operators right now is to comply with rapidly changing rules, without a lot of guidance, without a lot of support,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs at the National Restaurant Association.

Rude reviews and angry customers

Listen ! The Minneapolis cafe began requiring proof of vaccination on Tuesday. Customers are also asked to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, according to Katherine Pardue, chef and co-owner of the herbal restaurant.

When they come to order at the counter – there is no table service – a member of staff asks them if they want to eat inside, she said. If they say yes, they must show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test from the past 48 hours. Minneapolis does not have such a rule in place for restaurants.

Although customers were not upset by the policy and business increased, the restaurant received criticism via “phone calls, emails, social media posts. [and] social media posts, ”Pardue said, often from people outside the city. A Facebook comment seen by CNN Business likens what Hark does to segregation.

“It’s really unfortunate that the rhetoric around vaccines is so politicized, when we don’t see it as a political issue,” she said. “It is our right as business owners to do so,” she added. “Customers can make the decisions that are best for them. Anyone can choose to eat here or not to eat here. And we can choose to make those rules.”

Not everyone has seen their sales increase. New York City is requiring people who eat indoors to show proof of vaccination as of August 16, with enforcement scheduled to begin September 13.

Art Depole, who co-owns the Mooyah burger restaurant in Times Square with his brother, says he opposes the current tenure primarily because of the impact on his business.

At Depole’s Restaurant, sales are down about 25% last week from the previous week. Depole noted that about a fifth of its employees have said they might quit because they don’t want to be vaccinated or don’t want to disclose their vaccination status, as required by the city’s mandate.

Mooyah Restaurant is located at the bottom of a hotel and currently does not have an outdoor dining area. Its clientele are mostly office workers – a declining demographic, as offices expand their policies remotely – and tourists, who are confused or angry by the new rule, Depole said.

“People from out of town… literally have nothing they can show us,” he said, as they didn’t download the town or the city’s vaccination app. State on their phone and have no physical cards with them. . Some question the restaurant’s right to ask medical questions. “‘I brought in groups of seven or eight … if six are vaccinated and two are not, then I must turn away. [the] the whole group, ”he said.

It’s never easy to turn people down. Still, restaurateurs like Josh Weinstein say they feel relieved since a vaccination policy was put in place.

Weinstein, owner of The Quiet Few in Boston, said that when he announced that his bar, which also serves food, would require proof of vaccination for indoor meals, it “put on pounds on kilos off my shoulders “. Boston doesn’t require restaurant patrons to be vaccinated, so Weinstein made the call himself. As a Type 1 diabetic with a young child, Weinstein is personally relieved to know that customers who dine at his restaurant are vaccinated. It has taken a backlash via email, phone and social media, but comments from its regulars have generally been “fantastic,” he said.

But he noted in a Instagram post announcing the rule that it was a difficult decision to make. “It sucks. It’s difficult. We hate it. But we have to do it,” he added. “We hope you understand our position on this. And if you don’t agree, we hope we can come to terms with it later.”

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