Several bars and restaurants around the District are requiring proof of vaccination for customers entering their establishments.
Managers of four D.C. bars said they decided to require proof of vaccination as an extra level of protection in addition to the mask mandate to ensure the health and safety of their customers and staff. They said the majority of the customers have complied with the requirement and they have not noticed a downturn in business as a result.
David Batista, the Managing Partner at All Souls Bar in Shaw, said he saw a need to implement a vaccine requirement because the citywide mask mandate was difficult to enforce and couldn’t effectively protect staff or customers from the virus.
“People were encouraged to wear masks unless they were actively eating or drinking but that’s a pretty broad term and so it’s a battle you’re not going to be able to win with customers,” he said. “We felt like a mask mandate didn’t really cover anything.”
He said most customers are grateful that steps are being taken to make their dining experience safer.
“Guests come in and they are very enthusiastic about it, they’re appreciative that we do this and make them feel more comfortable,” he said.
Batista said some customers have been disappointed about the vaccine requirement because despite efforts from the restaurant to publicize it, they weren’t aware of this policy before they stopped in.
“They didn’t even look at the website or they didn’t look at the door or maybe the signs posted everywhere,” Batista said.
Although the restaurant hasn’t experienced significant pushback for the policy, Batista said a D.C. vaccine mandate or passport system would shift the responsibility of public safety from individual establishments to the local government.
“There wouldn’t be any pushback at all,” Batista said. “We wouldn’t have to be the bad guys, we could just say ‘Hey this is what we’re being asked to do.’”
Crown and Crow, a bar and private events venue in Logan Circle, requires customers to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test that came back within the last 72 hours. Lindsay Taylor, the events coordinator at Crown and Crow, said the move actually helped them attract new customers.
“At this point, the feedback that we’ve received is not indicating that we should be worried,” she said. “Groups of vaccinated individuals will look to hold events at our venues specifically because we have adopted the policy.”
Taylor said there have been a few isolated incidents where someone without the required documents has complained at the door for being prevented entry. In those situations, she said staff will try to diffuse the situation by recommending other nearby venues that don’t require vaccine records and reminding the customer of the intent of the policy.
“There have been a few isolated events where individuals have grown angry with us for having the policy in place, but unfortunately, we go back to how best to serve our community and that is by requiring this proof,” Taylor said.
In regards to the possibility of D.C. vaccine mandate, Taylor said Crown and Crow would be on board with any steps that could be taken to prevent another instance of full-on shutdown of the restaurant industry.
“As far as a vaccination mandate goes, if that were something that would keep us from having to close down entirely, we are very much on board with supporting that effort,” she said.
Ally Spaulding, the general manager for both A League of Her Own and Pitchers in Adam’s Morgan, said the requirement has been received as an act of care for the community. She said the majority of her patrons are members of the LGBTQ+ community, who are vaccinated at a higher rate than an average group of customers.
“It’s about making sure that we are taking care of others, and that we are doing our part,” Spaulding said. “Ninety-two percent of the LGBTQ community is vaccinated, and so the LGBTQ community is particularly invested. I think because as a subculture, we are used to taking care of each other.”
In a July 30 Facebook post, Pitchers announced this new requirement and expressed a lack of patience for any pushback.
“No exceptions, no arguing, no talking to the manager,” the post read.
Spaulding said so far almost everybody has come with their vaccine card, and those without it are understanding of the policy.
“This has really not been a damper on our business,” she said. “If anything the mask mandate has been more difficult for us than the vaccination requirement. People don’t want to wear masks, but they don’t mind getting vaccinated.”
All three restaurants have stated that the decision to implement mask mandates was largely influenced by the need to protect staff.
“Our employees have been really grateful,” Spaulding said. “Not only is it making sure that our community and our customers are safe, but it’s making sure that our staff is safe as well.”
Spaulding said by implementing a vaccine mandate, she is also trying to help change the rhetoric opposing vaccines.
“I think historically, this has been something very normal,” Spaulding said. “In order to go to school, in order to be in some workplaces, immunization records are normal. So I think that we need to really switch this sort of rhetoric back to ‘This is an immunization record, it’s not a passport, it’s not something new. It’s not something that the government just decided. This is science.’”