Many U.S. cities have begun mandating that people be vaccinated before they can be allowed to enter certain public spaces. These include restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and other business venues. Some of the largest cities to make these mandates include New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.
To verify a person's vaccination status, these cities have tasked restaurateurs and their employees to check whether their patrons are fully vaccinated through the use of vaccine passports. (Related: Vaccine passports becoming a reality in the US – is it the start of segregation?)
Many restaurant owners and managers have strongly criticized the vaccine mandates, saying that they're hurting their businesses. Many of their customers have canceled reservations and have raised objections to the new requirements. Many others have gone online to leave negative reviews, rightfully angry about their personal rights being violated.
Other restaurant owners say they and their staff have been accused of infringing on people's personal liberties and discriminating against the unvaccinated.
This has put restaurant owners in a delicate bind. They do not want to lose their patrons over their legitimate concerns about their health privacy and personal liberties.
But many believe they need to follow the law and check the vaccination status of their customers. They believe this is the only way to keep their businesses running and not be fined thousands of dollars after the pandemic and lockdowns have already taken so much potential revenue from them.
"Tell me the last time you were carded at a restaurant? It's a different level of training," said Laurie Thomas, owner of two restaurants in San Francisco. She is worried about her staff having to enforce the vaccine mandate.
"What's going to happen when you ask somebody for their papers and they don't want to show them to you?" asked Rob DeLuca, a restaurant owner in Staten Island. "What are we supposed to do? We're privately owned businesses, I don't know why this is our job."
"For 15 to 16 months business was not happening at all," said Massimo Felici, the owner of three restaurants in Staten Island. "In one, I had to get rid of 80 percent of my staff. We barely survived. I thought I was definitely going to lose my restaurants." Speaking of the vaccine mandate, he believes it could destroy his business.
Janet Russell, a property manager from Arlington, Virginia, believes the proof of vaccination requirements might destroy small businesses.
"These small businesses that have already suffered tremendously during lockdown should not have to shoulder the burden," she said.
Andrew Robbins, the CEO of a customer service company, pointed out that many restaurant owners and managers are very anxious about putting their staff at risk by turning them into vaccine enforcers.
Similar situations had been seen early on in the pandemic when businesses were required to enforce mask mandates.
"It's not like carding someone at the bar for a beer … [where] you're just enforcing the law," said Robbins. "You're making up the law and that is a really difficult situation for people to be in."
Robbins, like many others, believes these vaccine mandates could result in many people leaving the restaurant industry. Many people will be turned off by the idea of becoming vaccine enforcers. This will make the labor shortage even worse.
The problem will be even worse for restaurants that rely on on-premises dining. "Quick service restaurants can have drive-thru lanes, curbside," said Robbins. "How do you do that for table service restaurants?"
Learn more about the vaccine mandates and how these are negatively affecting many industries at Pandemic.news.