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Restaurants prepare for New York City’s vaccine mandate

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People dine at a restaurant at Hudson Yards in New York.

New York will soon require proof of vaccination for some indoor activities, like dining out. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

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Starting Sept. 13 in New York City, you’ll need to be at least partially vaccinated to participate in several indoor activities: going to the gym, a concert or other show, or a restaurant.

There is an exemption for kids under 12, who aren’t vaccine eligible.

As you might imagine, there’s been a mixed reaction to this news, particularly from New York’s restaurant industry.

The Tin Cup Café, a breakfast and lunch spot in Brooklyn, has been around for about a decade. But it has barely survived the pandemic. Last year, the restaurant was making maybe a fifth of what it used to, said partner and general manager Craig Handfield.

“And just when we thought that we were OK — well, we could breathe easy and wipe our brow, wipe the sweat off our brow — ‘Wow, that was a close one,'” Handfield said. “Now I’m concerned that, ‘OK, here we go again.'”

Here we go again because COVID is surging. Also, here we go again putting restrictions on customers. Handfield is conflicted about the mandate. He wants more people to get vaccinated, but he thinks it’ll be hard to enforce.

“I mean, what do you do if somebody can’t prove they’re vaccinated? Do you ask them not to come in? Like, who makes those decisions? Is it, I have to police that?” he said.

The logistics are unclear. Just a couple of buildings over on Fourth Avenue at a restaurant called Jey Diner, manager Giselle Tapia stood behind the counter. She was the only one working.

When this mandate goes into effect, would she be the one checking vaccination cards?

“I mean, probably. Or maybe like we may have somebody at the door who like waits for people and is just like, ‘OK,’ and sits them down,” Tapia said.

That would mean paying somebody else to guard the door all day. She’s not sure what she’ll do if a customer doesn’t have proof.

Also unclear: what the mandates will do to sales. It could be a good thing, said Andrew Rigie, executive director at the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

“You have some people that have stopped going out or limiting eating out because they’re uncomfortable with the delta variant. And now this could bring them back,” Rigie said.

On the other hand, he said people who aren’t vaccinated might stop going out to eat.

Rigie said he hopes the mandate has its intended effect — and pushes more people to get vaccinated. Because a lot of restaurants can’t handle another round of closures and capacity restrictions.

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