Discrimination against people who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine is already under way in New York City, where segregated dining is being used in many restaurants to “reward” people who get the vaccine with better seats and keep those who are unwilling to take on its risks tucked away in less-desirable areas of the restaurant.
Last month, bars were given the green light by the state of New York to operate at full capacity and stay open until 4:00am. Although state law says that vaccinated people in restaurants and bars do not have to practice social distancing, these establishments are still required to allow six feet of distancing or use other appropriate physical barriers for customers who are not vaccinated.
This has compelled many bars and restaurants to ask guests for proof of vaccination in order to maximize the number of people they can fit inside. However, because state regulations prohibit venues of less than 250 people from asking for proof of vaccination, customers could just as easily claim that they are vaccinated in order to get those more desirable seats. And health experts have said that even if these venues did enforce it, social distancing and segregation inside won’t do much to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.
Nevertheless, some bars are going to great lengths to segregate the groups, and it is almost always the unvaccinated people who are ending up with the short end of the stick. For example, at the Italian American wine bar Carroll Place in the West Village, the main floor is being reserved for vaccinated guests, while those who are not vaccinated will be required to stay upstairs in socially distanced seating that uses barriers.
Owner AJ Bontempo told the New York Post that he actually wants to “reward” people who get vaccinated.
“I started thinking, once everything starts reopening, people want a sense of normalcy. When you first walk in, I’d like there to be an energy, without all that plexiglass, and to reward people for being vaccinated — to give them that experience.’
While we can’t speak for Bontempo, he seems to be saying that people who are not willing to become human guinea pigs and subject themselves to an experimental vaccine that has already killed many people somehow do not deserve to enjoy the “energy” of dining in a restaurant.
On a similar note, at Caroline’s Comedy Club in Times Square, guests are being asked for their Excelsior pass upon entry, which is the state’s digital vaccine passport. Those who do not have that are being asked for a vaccination card; beyond that, the honor system is used. Owner Caroline Hirsch told the New York Post that vaccinated people are being given seats closest to the performers. In the future, she is hoping to hold shows that are exclusive to vaccinated people with more relaxed restrictions throughout the entire venue. This means that those who don’t want to get the jab would be unwelcome at the club.
Regulations mean some venues must either be vaccinated-only or stay closed
In some cases, bar and restaurant owners feel they have no choice but to go vaccinated-only thanks to the regulations. The owner of Evil Twin, a popular Queens brewery that opened a second location in Dumbo recently, came under fire for implementing a vaccinated-only policy at the newer spot. He says that he is not trying to say that those who don’t get vaccinated are wrong, but this approach was the only way to open up because there is no outdoor seating there and the indoor layout of the bar makes social distancing nearly impossible.
He said: “We did this because we felt that we were forced to. We had a choice to not open at all or open in this way… I wish we didn’t have to do this.”
The decision, not surprisingly, attracted a lot of negative comments on social media, along with boycott threats and accusations of discrimination.
This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that most of the COVID restrictions that are still in place in the state will be lifted when 70 percent of New York residents aged 18 and above have gotten the first dose of the vaccination. Right now, that figure stands at 69 percent.