HONOLULU – If you are on the town for a night in some U.S. cities, you may wait while someone at the door of the restaurant or theater closely examines your vaccination card and matches it with your photo ID. Or vice versa, you could be waved right through by flashing your card.
How strictly vaccination regulations are enforced varies from place to place, even within the same state or city.
In several American cities, proof of vaccination is required to enter restaurants and bars, enjoy a concert or play, watch a movie, or attend a ball game.
In some cities in Seattle and New York, ticket agents dutifully check the vaccination status of everyone passing the turnstile at professional sports venues, and restaurant owners do the same in many locations. Elsewhere, vaccination controls are superficial at best. Sometimes it is practically done according to the honor system.
“There are some companies that say they look for vaccinations but they don’t even check,” said Jay Matsler of Palm Springs, California, who visited Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco with his partner during a stop on their California cruise Coast.
âWe actually tell them, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not forcing this. We won’t leave our business to you, ‘âsaid Matsler. He said they had recently been to Prague and Paris and were required to show their vaccination cards and IDs in each indoor area they visited.
Some places in the US are scared of losing business if they insist on evidence. Some say they do not have enough staff to carry out such checks amid a nationwide labor shortage. Some fundamentally disagree.
And some don’t want to risk ugly confrontations. In an Italian restaurant in New York City, being asked to show a group of customers with proof of vaccination led to a brawl.
During the first month of enforcement in New York, inspectors cautioned 6,000 companies for failing to verify customer status and fined 15 US $ 1,000 for repeat offenders. The indoor dining area at an In-N-Out burger joint in San Francisco was closed this month by health officials for not asking for proof of vaccination.
Health officials view the requirements as important tools in slowing COVID-19 at a time when 1,500 or more Americans are dying from the virus every day. Such rules face strong opposition in conservative states, which means that they are in effect primarily in Democratic-run places.
At the Highway Inn restaurant in Honolulu, the hostess asked guests for proof of vaccination or a negative test on Monday before placing them inside. The information on their cards must match their IDs and they must also provide contact information, which the restaurant will keep for two weeks in the event of an outbreak.
Russell Ryan, the restaurant’s co-owner, said business declined when restaurant vaccine requirements first went into effect in mid-September. A few unvaccinated people “stormed off angrily,” he said, but most did well and business returned as more people were vaccinated.
“In general, it was less confrontational than we feared,” said Ryan. “We thought we’d get some zealots who wanted to take a stand for some reason.”
In many parts of the United States, exact enforcement of vaccination regulations is left to the company.
At a recent movie theater in San Francisco, teenagers at the concession booth checked cell phone photos on their vaccination cards before handing them popcorn, candy, and drinks.
In the city’s opera house, however, an usher carefully examines the vaccination certificate and compares it with a photo ID. Those who fail to provide evidence are asked to leave.
The San Francisco health inspectors who review restaurant food permits also routinely check that businesses are complying with the rules for proof of vaccination, but the city mainly relies on violations complaints sent to its 311 line.
Since the city’s mandate came into effect on August 20, only one restaurant has been fined – In-N-Out at Fisherman’s Wharf, which closed on October 14 for the day after it refused to provide vaccination records despite several warnings from demand the city. The burger shop now only serves take away. A spokesman said the company refuses to be “a government’s vaccination police.”
In Los Angeles County, health inspectors at approximately 250 bars, lounges, nightclubs, breweries, wineries, and distilleries that were audited between Oct. 8-17, found 38 venues that needed more vaccination training than the county’s next time Visiting 78 bars this week, they found that around 15% of them failed to comply with customer vaccine screening regulations, which led to more training.
New Orleans is also one of the big cities that has imposed such rules, and Los Angeles plans to introduce its own requirements next week.
In New York City, large venues like Broadway theaters and museums tend to strictly enforce the rules. Maybe not a cafÃ© in the neighborhood.
âThe great, great, great majority of restaurants and all of the other businesses say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to work with this. We will make sure that it works for our employees and for our customers and that it ensures the safety of everyone, âsaid Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Rick Camac, dean of restaurant and hospitality management at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, said that some of the rules governing how restaurants work are ambiguous, so some establishments differ in the details, such as whether they are paper or electronic Need cards. Enforcement is also difficult for workers who are trained in the hospitality industry and may not be able to deal with angry customers, he said.
“You don’t want to play a cop,” he said. “They want to lead you to your table and make this the starting point for a great experience.”
Some business owners in the US have chosen to close their dining rooms and only offer takeout or al fresco seating.
In Honolulu, host Ku’uipo Lorenzo greeted customers Ashley and Martin Day upon arrival at the Highway Inn for authentic Hawaiian food. They sat at a table after Ashley presented her vaccination card and her unvaccinated husband recently showed a negative COVID-19 test.
âWe have different perspectives,â said Ashley Day. “I think we both agree that it should probably be a test mandate rather than a vaccine mandate.”
But the days look forward to when no tests and vaccines are required to eat out.
“I think we’d like to see things open up again,” said Ashley.
Associate Press Secretary Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.