NOT THE VAX POLICE: Restaurant owners are refusing to ask diners for proof of vaccination

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Many public and private entities have mandated their customers to present proof of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination. However, several restaurant owners have refused to assume the role of “vaccine police” by implementing such mandates. Restaurant owners said the vaccine mandates added another burden to an industry already hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major cities in the U.S., such as Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City (NYC), ordered restaurant owners and employees to check if their patrons are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, many slammed the vaccine mandates by saying they only hurt businesses even more. Other entrepreneurs said they received accusations of infringement of personal rights and discrimination against unvaccinated customers.

Restaurateur Massimo Felici was among the business owners who expressed concern over the new requirements. He told the BBC that “business was not happening at all” for 15 to 16 months at his three restaurants in the Staten Island borough of NYC. “In one [restaurant], I had to get rid of 80 percent of my staff. We barely survived. I thought I was definitely going to lose my restaurants,” Felici said.

While business in Felici’s restaurants subsequently bounced back, NYC’s order to enforce the COVID-19 vaccine mandate posed a serious challenge to the restaurant owner. “This could destroy my business; there are too many people who are unvaccinated,” Felici said. He continued: “Right now it’s summer, so it’s not too bad to eat outside. But soon, it will be really cold. A lot of people are going to get fed up and leave.”

Another restaurateur, Rob DeLuca, also voiced out his concerns regarding the vaccine passport mandate. The owner of DeLuca’s, also in Staten Island, told the BBC: “What’s going to happen when you ask somebody for their [vaccination] papers and they don’t want to show them to [you?] What are we supposed to do? We’re privately owned businesses, I don’t know why this is our job.” (Related: NYC restaurants REFUSE to enforce vaccine passport mandate and become “vaccination police.”)

Restaurants “putting targets in their backs” through the vaccine mandates

On Aug. 16, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order requiring customers to show proof of vaccination before dining indoors. He called the mandate “a necessary step to tackle vaccine hesitancy,” given that only 60 percent of New Yorkers completed their COVID-19 vaccination schedules.

“It is time for people to see vaccinations as literally necessary to living a good, full and healthy life. If you’re unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things,” de Blasio said during a recent press conference. (Related: France threatens to imprison restaurant owners who serve the “unvaccinated.”)

Despite the COVID-19 vaccine mandate’s negative effect, some restaurant owners were forced to adhere to the law. These entrepreneurs argued that checking customers’ vaccination status will keep their businesses running – after lockdowns took away a large chunk of their potential revenue. They added that mandating vaccine passports will help them avoid huge fines from authorities.

California restaurateur Dean Lavine, who owns the Blackbook bar and restaurant in Palm Springs, gave a short answer as to why his establishment complied with the city’s vaccine passport mandate. “We don’t want to get shut down again. It’s that simple,” he told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Blackbook started verifying customers’ COVID-19 vaccination status earlier in August 2021.

Many customers have canceled reservations and raised objections to vaccine passports because of the new mandates. Meanwhile, other customers left negative reviews online to express their outrage over discrimination and the violation of their civil liberties. One restaurant in south Seattle shared with WSJ its experience after it announced such mandates.

Back in late July 2021, the Off Alley restaurant started requiring diners to prove that they were inoculated against COVID-19. According to the restaurant’s co-owner Meghna Prakash, customers were generally supportive of their new rule. However, Off Alley was not spared from negative reviews online.

Prakash told WSJ that online users who had not even dined at Off Alley lobbied negative remarks toward her restaurant. These same users also called her “discriminatory” for implementing the vaccine passport rule. “Making these policy decisions by ourselves is putting targets on our backs,” Prakash said. has more articles about restaurants standing up against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

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