Denver restaurants weigh vaccine mandate

COVID-19 Vaccine

DENVER (KDVR) — As the saying goes, “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” Could vaccines soon be added to that list?

Following New York City’s decision to require all customers at restaurants, gyms and event spaces to be vaccinated, restaurants in Denver are starting to think about the possibility of a mandate.

“I really considered it, doing it myself. Talked to my management team. Talked to other Denver restaurant owners, and I just decided that I was not going to be the lone wolf to do this by myself,” Blake Street Tavern owner Chris Fuselier told FOX31.

Will Denver require vaccine proof?

Denver said it will remain up to individual businesses if they want to require customers to be vaccinated. So far, only a handful of restaurants in Denver have done so.

“We’re looking into the full legalities around that. Certainly all the time we need to accommodate for people with disabilities or special needs,” Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said.

When asked how likely it is that Colorado would enact an across-the-board vaccine mandate for customers similar to New York, Riggs said, “I’m not sure we’re going to go that far.” She added, “but it’s something we’re keeping an eye on and who knows, that may change in the coming months.”

Fuselier is less optimistic.

“I think it’s all gonna be dominoes,” he said.

Vaccine mandates include logistical concerns

Fuselier believes more cities will opt to mirror New York City’s policies and tighten restrictions for unvaccinated individuals. And while he does support vaccines, he acknowledges that it will be a difficult undertaking for restaurants like his.

“I’m personally for vaccination, but to ask my staff, my servers, bartenders and hosts to take the time to thoroughly verify this person’s vaccination card —” Fuselier said, “we have a tough enough time just checking IDs if people are old enough. But to add that extra responsibility would not be fair on my part to do that.”

He also said there would be significant costs associated with staffing doormen or hosts dedicated to checking vaccination status.

FILE – In this undated photo, provided by NY Governor’s Press Office on Saturday March 27, 2021, is the new “Excelsior Pass” app, a digital pass that people can download to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine have become the latest flash point in America’s perpetual political wars, with Republicans portraying them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices. (NY Governor’s Press Office via AP, File)

Further, if some business opt in to checking vaccine cards and some decline to do so, it could make it very difficult for some restaurants to compete for business.

“Next thing you know, you lose the entire group of eight to your competitor, and that can’t happen either. So there’s a lot of logistical concerns,” Fuselier said.

Blake Street Tavern will not move forward with a vaccine policy without a government mandate or agreement between multiple restaurants. However, Fuselier said his business also cannot handle another round of capacity limits, shutdowns or restrictions.

“Since restrictions were lifted in May, we’ve had record-breaking sales here at Blake Street. I know a lot of my peers are doing very well, too. So the last three months have been awesome,” he said. “We’re finally catching up, and we cannot go backwards.”

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