Tacoma Bars and Restaurants Consider Requiring COVID Vaccine

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Operator Chris Keil stands outside the entrance to en Rama, located in downtown Tacoma at Courthouse Square, known locally as the Old Post Office Building.  Keil told the News Tribune that the bar and restaurant will soon require proof of vaccination for those who wish to dine inside.  Photo taken in Tacoma on Tuesday March 21, 2017.

Operator Chris Keil stands outside the entrance to en Rama, located in downtown Tacoma at Courthouse Square, known locally as the Old Post Office Building. Keil told the News Tribune that the bar and restaurant will soon require proof of vaccination for those who wish to dine inside. Photo taken in Tacoma on Tuesday March 21, 2017.

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Much of the responsibility and the burden fell on their shoulders from the very beginning.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, bars and restaurants were among the first local businesses to close, sending thousands of service workers onto unemployment lists and forcing owners to try to weather the storm. Later, in the top-to-bottom “reopening” of the state, it was the local bars and restaurants that were often forced to handle some of the more onerous mandates, from limited seating to – somehow – to verify that everyone at a table resided at the same address.

So it may come as no surprise that now – in the final stage of this ongoing nightmare, with variants of COVID-19 wreaking havoc – local bars and restaurants have once again been placed on the front lines of the world. precarious intersection between business and public health.

Vaccines – and the increase in the overall immunization rate, as unlikely as it starts to sound – are our best way out of the crisis we’ve been living with for the past 16 months (and which has only recently done more than extend). Everyone knows this, but the idea of ​​mandates requiring the vaccine – whether by local government decree, or on an employer-by-employer basis – remains relatively rare, if not highly controversial.

Again, it’s letting bars and restaurants do the dirty work of the pandemic.

As reported by the Seattle Times, at least 60 bars and restaurants in Seattle recently decided to require proof of vaccination for the service, which is likely a number that has already risen. And while Tacoma is a different ball game for a number of reasons, according to Rama operator Chris Keil, that doesn’t mean local restaurateurs aren’t thinking and talking about doing the same here.

Some, like in Rama, will make the trip soon – at least for those customers wishing to dine inside, Keil said. Others, like The Mix in the St. Helens neighborhood of Tacoma and the Red Star Taco Bar up the street, already are.

We should be grateful to all of them because it is the right thing to do.

We should also hope that others will have the courage to follow suit, because at this point in the game it has become painfully clear that local governments who could take some of the pressure off them by instituting broader vaccine mandates. have not yet gathered the guts and political courage to do so.

According to Keil, he was initially reluctant to demand proof of vaccination in Rama, in part because of the grief his staff endured in trying to enforce the rules of masking and social distancing. However, he was influenced by the spread of the delta variant, and in particular when a vaccinated member of his staff fell with a groundbreaking COVID case that forced the restaurant to close for about a week.

As he has done almost from the start, Keil said he felt left out, forced to make impossible decisions regarding the safety and well-being of his staff and the community he serves. – while trying to survive financially.

Really, who could blame him?

“It is utter nonsense that this is being forced on us,” Keil said of the vaccination dilemma he and others in the service industry now face, criticizing what he sees as a lack. government support and a rush to get back to business as usual.

“We’ve always taken more precautions than… the state health department and CDC have recommended, and we’re sadly going to start doing it again,” Keil said. “I think it’s total (expletive) that… we have to be the ones getting spit on, literally or figuratively, by authorized and angry people because the government won’t intervene.”

At the Red Star, where proof of vaccination has been required since Monday, owners Billy Beckett and Padraic Markle see things differently, but come to largely the same point.

The decision to require vaccination for the service stems from their experience in Seattle, they said, where a number of restaurants near the restaurant’s location in Fremont recently joined together to take a stand. According to Beckett, the transfer of the police to Tacoma “was not a difficult decision”.

Overall, Markle said he is wary of vaccine mandates and believes it is important for local businesses to retain the freedom to respond in a way “we deem appropriate.” Government mandates, he suggested, can have unintended negative consequences.

He also recognized the weight of this duty.

“It’s kind of the nature of running a small business in this country. We need to take responsibility for our own business and our own community over and over again. There’s a beauty in there, (and) a certain freedom, ”Markle said. “Small business owners take as much responsibility as they can. “

Looking to the near future, Beckett and Markle said they wouldn’t be surprised if more and more restaurants in Tacoma made the decision to require proof of vaccination in the coming weeks. And while Markle rightly lamented how the COVID-19 vaccine has become needlessly ‘politicized,’ Beckett believes most of those choices will come down to two simple factors: protecting employees and the community, and doing everything possible to avoid having to close again. .

That’s what happened in Seattle, Beckett said, and like many things he expects Tacoma to follow closely.

“My honest assessment is that Seattle gets hit first, then we get hit,” Beckett said, citing a wave of COVID-related closures in Seattle that prompted many people to decide to require proof of vaccination.

“So far I’ve only heard of two (restaurants) here (in Tacoma) that need it… but as it becomes more prevalent and happens more and more in bars and local restaurants and local gathering places, the more we will see people joining us.

Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Pierson agrees. While he doubts a vaccine demand movement will spread beyond Tacoma – given the obvious differences in policy and circumstances for companies operating in more conservative areas of the county – he believes it will. is a decision that a growing number of City of Destiny restaurants will soon feel compelled to Craft.

“I think if this variation grows, it will become an easier decision for restaurants because they will want to keep their doors open,” Pierson said.

As for the motivations, it has to be admitted: it is quite convincing.

It also makes you wonder if there isn’t a better way.

Matt Driscoll is a reporter and subway columnist for The News Tribune. Winner of the McClatchy President’s Award, Driscoll lives in Central Tacoma with his wife and three children. He is passionate about the City of Destiny and strives to tell stories that might otherwise go unrelated.


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