Historically, going out to eat at a restaurant has been an American pastime. We all enjoy it and have come to view it as our right. Now, however, the choice of eating out at a restaurant or not has changed. Restaurant owners have to consider if they should require proof of vaccination or not as a moral stance. They have been thrust into the gatekeeper position for their communities, another example of how this pandemic is “unprecedented.” If they allow unvaccinated people onto their premises, it could be dangerous. If they allow only vaccinated people, it is divisive. Restaurant owners have been burdened with the responsibility of instilling public confidence about a virus they have no control over.
In recent weeks the argument for requiring proof of vaccination to enter a business has become more overt. Some people feel it is a political choice based on individual freedom. Others see it as a medical necessity to protect everyone’s safety. Starting August 16, 2021, New York City will be the first US city to require proof of vaccination to enter a restaurant. Wearing a mask in public establishments may not be convenient. Still, as long as we are amid a worldwide pandemic with new deadly variants emerging, the right for a restaurant owner to require proof of vaccination is not necessarily unreasonable.
The Department of Justice enacted a mandatory vaccine policy on July 6, 2021. This policy allows employers in public and private sectors, including restaurants, to require COVID -19 vaccination as a condition for employment.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill disallowing vaccine passports in public businesses. Everyone can enter a restaurant without showing proof of vaccination. His notion of “freedom for all” was not all well received, especially in conjunction with his executive order that masks would not be required in schools. At the same time, he announced that Texas would ask healthcare workers from other states to assist with its surge in COVID-19 cases. It seems the Wild West did not want to be totally wild as there were still people who did not support of the bill Abbott signed. It is clear there are strong and mixed opinions on this hot-button subject.
So, what should restaurant owners do? Should restaurants should require proof of vaccination? The answer is not so easy. At this point, what is certain is to provide a safe environment for both guests and employees so following local, state and federal guidelines and mandates is key.