Mayor Bill de Blasio’s sweeping new mandate requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination before dining inside has been widely greeted as a carrot rather than a stick by the restaurant industry.
After resisting 17 months of downtime and varying masking and contact tracing requirements, many restaurateurs expressed relief that they could continue to eat indoors even though there are exemptions and unanswered questions.
“Will there be awkward interactions? I’m sure there will be, ”said Michael Fuquay, co-owner of Queensboro in Jackson Heights. But he explained that a government warrant means he can deviate, telling a client, “I haven’t decided we need to check your vaccine, we’ve been told we need to check your vaccine.”
The NYC Hospitality Alliance also adopted the new vaccine requirement, considered the country’s first, while acknowledging that it would pose new hurdles for its more than 4,000 paying members in the restaurant and nightlife industries. The organization says the city has more than 24,000 catering establishments, employing more than a quarter of a million people.
“We know that a mandatory vaccine requirement will pose economic and operational challenges for restaurants, especially in communities where vaccination rates and hesitation are lower,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “However, it will also ease the burden that restaurants and bars face when voluntarily implementing this policy.”
Industry acceptance of the mandate comes as the delta variant of the coronavirus increases in New York City and across the country. Business groups say requiring proof of vaccination is better than alternatives. The Five-Borough Chamber Alliance called the mayor’s move “a necessary step for businesses to continue to serve their customers safely and to prevent more drastic restrictions and closures that would once again cripple the economy.”
As of August 16, proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine must be presented before entering a bar, restaurant, indoor performance space or gym. The performance will begin on September 13. Customers can present a paper vaccination card from the CDC or share their vaccination status on an app, such as the state’s Excelsior pass or the city’s new COVID Safe app, though at least one reviewer has pointed out the app’s inability to verify a person’s immunization status.
Jonathan Forgash, executive director of the Queens Together group, said its members “will continue to work with elected officials and municipal agencies to educate and inform our restaurants on best practices and compliance.”
Some opponents of mandatory vaccines have said the plan goes too far. Councilor Joe Borelli tweeted his opposition to the policy on the same day as the Daily News published its editorial saying that vaccination warrants create “two classes of New Yorkers.”
Anita Trehan of the Chaiwali restaurant in Harlem said she supported the mandate as a way to encourage more New Yorkers to get vaccinated. But she acknowledged that some customers might not be happy. “We’re going to have to find an internal situation where we verify their information and we’ll just have to train our staff to be very polite at all times but pushy,” she said.
It’s a delicate balance, but some have said it’s not so unheard of after dealing with other pandemic-era mandates, like wearing masks and tracing contact.
“I’m going to adopt the same mindset as if we step out of cheesecake,” said Ashwin Deshmukh, owner of Bowery Short Stories restaurant. “I’ll probably suggest something else.
Restaurants could encourage customers without proof of vaccination to sit outside if they have space. But Deshmukh said he didn’t want to divide his customers into different zones and could politely encourage them to have their meals in local parks.
The mayor did not specify how businesses are expected to cope with these and other situations. On CBS This Morning, he said children under 12, who are too young to be vaccinated, can eat indoors with their parents and can wear masks.
But Fuquay wondered about bathroom policy.
“We are legally required to have bathrooms available to guests,” he explained. “It seems obvious to me that people who are not vaccinated but who dine out will have to be allowed to enter the space in order to use the toilet and access the hand washing, but we will obviously want some clarification on this. . “
Others want clarification on how to treat clients with religious or other exemptions from vaccines.
Dr Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a public health emergency preparedness expert affiliated with both the NYU School of Global Public Health and Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, said eating inside a restaurant, especially in a restaurant with limited traffic, carries a risk. But she also said: “Having a group of vaccinated people dining together indoors means less virus transmission is likely to occur even if someone is infected.”
An unvaccinated person who uses the toilet “will likely be the exception rather than the rule, so the risk they pose to a room of fully vaccinated people is non-zero but is mitigated with these policies.”
Companies also want information about the application and the new fines. Jeffrey Bank, CEO of Alicart Restaurant Group, owner of Virgil’s and Carmine’s, said he was disappointed when the tenure was announced, “the mayor’s next words were mostly about inspections and enforcement.”
The mayor said the health ministry would be responsible for enforcing the law and the agency said “housing is“ an integral part of any public health approach. ”The DOH also said that before August 16, he “will receive more comments, finalize the policy, publish it and start implementing it.”
“Then we’ll spend almost a month educating people, going to businesses, getting calls from businesses, answering questions and concerns, making sure everyone understands the new approach. And then, on September 13, during this week, we will begin inspections and enforcement. So we want to give businesses, large and small, a chance to acclimatize. “
Carmine’s location in Times Square is slated to reopen on September 14, a day after enforcement of the new vaccine mandate began. Bank said de Blasio should use his bully chair to seek more federal support because nearly 300,000 additional restaurants have applied for federal aid that the new restoration program could fund.
The vaccination mandate is much more preferable to the restaurant industry than requiring a return to mask wear. “The masks were a terrible symbol of turning back the clock,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the New York City Partnership, which advocates for the city’s business community.
She also acknowledged that the warrant is a way to encourage New Yorkers to get vaccinated, which will further reopen the economy. As of this month, nearly 29% of adult city dwellers never have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine, below collective immunity. “That’s why we want it to be a stronger federal mandate,” she said, not just local.
The health club industry has also expressed support for the city’s policy as a way to get back to normal. A spokesperson for fitness channel Crunch said its clubs would “work on the operational elements of this requirement” over the next week and provide members with “additional details.” She did not say how immunization information will be stored or collected.
“We know that vaccines are an essential tool against COVID-19 and in getting us out of this pandemic,” added Helen Durkin, executive vice president of public policy for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. “Exercise too. “