NYC Restaurants Scrambling To Prepare To Keep Unvaccinated Out

The vaccination requirement will be enforced starting September 13.
TOPSHOT - People dine in plastic tents for social distancing at a restaurant in Manhattan on October 15, 2020 in New York City, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

New York City restaurants are scrambling to prepare for denying entry to unvaccinated people when new rules barring unvaccinated people from dining indoors go into effect next month.

Last week, New York became the first city to announce that it will require proof of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine for some activities including indoor dining, gyms, and performances.

“If you want to participate in our society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated,” Democratic New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday at a news conference. “It’s time.”

The vaccination requirement, called the “Key to NYC Pass” program, will be enforced for both customers and workers starting on September 13.

“This is going to be a requirement,” the mayor said. “The only way to patronize these establishments is if you are vaccinated, at least one dose.”

Restaurants in the city still reeling from the past year’s effects on their industry, have expressed concern about how the vaccine mandate will affect their day-to-day operations. Unvaccinated guests can still dine outside, but only vaccinated diners may eat inside restaurants.

Bloomberg reported that Dhamaka, a new Indian restaurant on the Lower East Side, is expecting to receive cancellations when the vaccine mandate takes effect. The restaurant is also anticipating having to deal with upset customers.

“We are going to have special training on how to say ‘no,’” front-of-house lead Tina Dolker told Bloomberg.

“We’ve dealt with intoxicated people, irrational people,” Scott Gerber, who runs popular eateries including Mr. Purple and the Campbell, told Bloomberg. “Our people are skilled at de-escalating problems.”

Union Square Hospitality Group LLC also expects to have to deal with the same issue of angry customers.

“We have been working on de-escalation techniques for months,” Danny Meyer, the group’s chief executive officer, said.

Some restaurant owners even said they cannot picture themselves asking for proof of vaccination.

“I just don’t see myself doing that, asking for proof,” Michael Musto, owner of the Cargo Cafe in Staten Island, told Fortune, adding, “Do I have to turn my customers away? Do I have to turn business away?”

Not every restaurant in the city can afford to hire security to handle confrontations over vaccine status. However, some restaurants pointed out that checking vaccinations cards could be similar to checking IDs for alcohol.

Approximately 56% of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated as of Monday, according to city figures.

The vaccine mandate, which was crafted to begin with the start of the new school year, will use New York City’s new app, the state’s Excelsior app, or a paper vaccination card to verify vaccination status. There are concerns that the paper vaccination cards can be easily forged, however.

President Biden mandated vaccines for all federal workers and contractors, as did New York City and California. Major companies have also led the way on vaccine mandates, with behemoths like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Delta airlines also mandating vaccination for their employees.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last month that there will be no federal mandate for Americans to get a coronavirus vaccine.

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