As the Delta variant of the coronavirus has become the most predominant variant in the United States and medical experts issue confusing advice, restaurateurs find themselves once again making difficult decisions. Where laws allow, many have begun requiring patrons to bring proof of vaccination before dining.
The recent rise in infection rates had already prompted some restaurant owners to revise their rules. But the announcement on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that even vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors added new urgency.
In states including California and New York, some restaurant owners are mandating that customers and employees be vaccinated, and reinstating older health protocols like requiring that both groups wear masks. But in states like Florida and Arkansas, which have had huge spikes in coronavirus cases, businesses are prohibited from enforcing vaccine requirements, and local governments cannot issue mask mandates.
Danny Meyer, the chief executive of Union Square Hospitality Group, which manages more than a dozen restaurants in New York and Washington, D.C., announced Thursday that beginning on Sept. 7, all employees must be fully vaccinated.
“I just do not want to see our business or our city turn back to where we were last summer,” he said. “We have an answer, and this is what the answer is, and it’s vaccines.”
But when Jill Ritchie, owner of Vegan Picnic, in San Francisco, announced that customers would have to present proof of vaccination to eat inside, she said she received hundreds of threatening messages a day, and dozens of one-star reviews from skeptics.
Yelp posted a consumer warning for the restaurant about unusual review activity. People continue to leave negative Google reviews based on her announcement. “Come here to be discriminated against,” said one message.
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