US vaccination wars are a headache business owners could do without
(This article originally appeared in The Guardian)
There are plenty of vaccines available but, as it turns out, not everyone wants to get vaccinated. And those that choose not to — for whatever reason — are creating headaches for countless small business owners around the country who are trying to recover from what has been one of their worst years ever.
And now the situation is about to get even worse.
New York City is now mandating vaccinations for customers entering indoor venues like restaurants and gyms, forcing restaurant owners and their employees to play vaccine cops. “Why do you need proof of vaccine to exercise or eat but not to get on a crowded bus or subway?” Tyler Hollinger, the owner of Festivál Cafe in Manhattan, told Business Insider.
But it’s not just owners who are worried. The reaction from customers — and potential customers — has been extreme. To put it mildly.
Take, for example, Kathryn Kulczyk, the co-owner of The Alembic, a cocktail bar and restaurant in San Francisco. Kulczyk made the grave error of telling customers that they needed to show proof of vaccinations in order to be served, a feature that Yelp added for those businesses that wanted to include this requirement on their listings. The response was brutal.
“People were calling us Nazis,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “Saying that we supported the devil because we wanted proof of vaccination.”
In Salt Lake City, a bar was “bombarded with angry phone calls” after announcing its vaccination policy, with some irate callers saying the rule violated the US constitution. “You have no right to demand that,” said a now former customer to the bar owner. “This is America. It’s sickening.”
Marketwatch reports that a gastropub owner was on the wrong side of a Twitter remark from the congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene because of their policy requiring proof of vaccination to be served. “This is called segregation,” Greene wrote about the small business owner, who I’m sure wasn’t happy about turning away customers either. “Will you be testing everyone at the door for the flu, strep throat, stomach bugs, colds, meningitis, aids, venereal diseases, Hep A, Hep C, staff infections, athletes [sic] foot, pink eye, croup, bronchitis, ringworm, scabies, or any other contagions?”
Some restaurants in Florida that prefer not to serve the unvaccinated are being forced to put their employees in the uncomfortable position of asking for vaccination status without requiring proof, which is prohibited by state law. “I think people will probably answer honestly 95% of the time,” one owner told the Tampa Bay Times. “Why bother lying about something so petty as a restaurant reservation?” Then again, why be in this position at all?
And even as a growing number of restaurants in cities like Boston and Philadelphia are taking it upon themselves to require proof of vaccination from their customers, other businesses are taking an opposite stance. Basilico’s Pasta E Vino, an eatery in Pasadena, California, requires proof of being unvaccinated in order to be served.
As if it’s not hard enough running a business, now business owners have to take sides in a vaccination war on top of everything else? I’m with those Chicago business owners: it’s exhausting.
Not getting vaccinated affects small businesses in other ways too. The longer people go without this protection, the more opportunities we give the virus to find a hospitable host and create more variants that could turn into bigger trouble. As cases and hospitalizations rise, people get scared, and so full economic recovery is inhibited. Unemployment remains higher than normal. Small businesses, which contribute half of the country’s GDP and employ more than half of our workers, suffer.
If you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s up to you. I got my jab. But you have the right not to. But just know that your decision is making it really tough on small businesses around the country which are already struggling. And if you have the right not to get vaccinated, a restaurant or other establishment also has the right not to serve you because you’re unvaccinated. Don’t penalize these business owners and their employees with bad Yelp reviews and abusive behavior just because you don’t agree.