About 20 people descended on Dame in Greenwich Village on Tuesday night to protest the restaurant’s demand that diners inside provide proof of vaccinations, a day after the city dropped its vaccination mandate.
Five men walked into the tiny seafood restaurant and didn’t want to leave, while others, angered by the restaurant’s decision to keep asking for proof of vaccinations, crowded outside, Patricia said. Howard, a landlady. The police were called several times, she said, and a nearby restaurant, Carbone, sent a security guard to help them come up with a security plan.
“They have every right to protest outside in the street,” said Ed Szymanski, the restaurant’s chef and owner. “I just don’t want them threatening employees and encroaching on private property. If they want to stand outside with picket signs, be our guest.
When the city ended its requirement Monday that restaurants ask indoor diners for proof of vaccinations, it left it up to owners to decide whether to voluntarily pursue such requests. And some restaurants, like Dame, aren’t ready to give up on the security measure, which they see as a way to protect their customers and employees.
The incident at Dame began around 8pm, when Ms Howard asked two men to leave. They had arrived without a reservation and the restaurant was full, she said, adding that the men had not provided proof of vaccinations and had tried to sit at the bar. The men eventually left, but returned with other people and the protest began.
New York’s decision to end the vaccine requirement, one of the most restrictive in the country, was part of a broader effort to reopen the city, whose economy is still struggling, and to bring back a sense of normalcy after rate of new Covid-19 cases dropped, Mayor Eric Adams said. The announcement came as other cities, such as Philadelphia, and states ended their terms. On Feb. 10, Governor Kathy Hochul ended a statewide rule that required indoor businesses to require masks or proof of vaccinations.
The mandate was introduced last August by Mr. Adams’ predecessor, Bill de Blasio. Some restaurants across town and country had set their own rules weeks before, during a ramp-up of the Delta variant.
Some restaurant owners, like Ms. Howard of Dame (one of the first places in New York to ask diners for vaccination cards), are now concerned about the potential for messy customers who are upset about vaccines. She felt the mayor’s end of the vaccine requirement was a signal that restaurants lacked the city’s support. “It’s like we’re alone now,” she said.
Other owners said they fear that by relaxing the requirements they will end up back where they started if there are new Covid variants or surges.
“At this point in our lives, we think small moves are better than big moves,” said Marc St. Jaques, owner and chef of Bar Bête, a restaurant in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, who said managers decided to continue. the vaccine requirement after meeting with its staff, who supported the mandate. “We’re going bit by bit to figure out what’s the best thing.”
Restaurant owners have said the vaccination requirement can prevent employees from catching Covid and missing work, or force the restaurant to close, as many had to when the Omicron variant surged this winter.
“Everyone needs money to survive, but I care more than anything about my staff,” said Kyo Pang, the owner of Kopitiam, a fast food restaurant serving Nyonya cuisine on the Lower East Side. Before deciding to extend the restaurant’s vaccine requirement, she met with staff, who supported the move. “We wanted people to feel like it’s their second home.”
For Sivan Harlap, a Lower East Side restaurateur, requiring proof of vaccinations has helped her Eastwood and Dancer regulars feel more comfortable dining out, she said.
“We feel like our community prefers to be in an indoor space where most or all are vaccinated,” she said. “It’s the thing that suits us.”