NYC’s Top Dining Rooms Will Start Requiring Proof of Vaccination
Danny Meyer, chief executive officer at Union Square Hospitality Group LLC and the chairman of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, announced Thursday that eating indoors at any of his restaurants, which also include the Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, will require guests show a physical Covid-19 vaccine card, a photo of it, or use the digital New York State Excelsior Pass. Employees will have to be vaccinated, too.
“We’re following the lead of both city, state and federal government, and we’re going to do this ourselves in our restaurants in New York City and Washington D.C., to require that all staff members be vaccinated and guests that want to dine indoors show proof that they’ve been vaccinated,” he said on CNBC.
In a conversation with Bloomberg, Meyer says that it was the spread of the contagious new coronavirus strain that provoked his decision. “When we learned about the degree that the delta variant was being transmitted, especially amongst unvaccinated people, we said we have to do something for our staff and guests.”
“We have covered too much ground in last year and a half to turn back the clock,” he adds.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the move. “Here’s a major employer in this town saying ‘yep we’re going to do the same thing in our own way,’'' said de Blasio in a July 29 news briefing about what the city is doing with public workers. “It’s time to get serious about vaccinations, [to] dine indoors, you’ve got to be vaccinated. It’s one of these make or break moments, and I want to commend Danny Meyer for what he did.’’
Meyer made clear to Bloomberg that this move does not impact Shake Shack Inc., the burger empire that he founded, even for requiring proof of vaccination for employees.
“Shake Shack will make its own decisions,” he says. “This will take longer to play out for national chains because state by state there are very different rules in place. New York was a great place to take this step for USHG.”
Meyer has acted on the side of caution throughout the pandemic. On March 13, 2020, he proactively shut down his 19 New York restaurants as a result of the pandemic. In May, Meyer told Bloomberg that he didn’t anticipate re-opening his dining rooms for a while. “Probably not until there’s a vaccine,” he said last year.
It remains to be seen how customers will react.
Meyer says that USHG staff will receive training on how to deal with aggressive diners who can’t show proof of vaccination. Over the past few months, he says employees have also learned how to deescalate situations.
Meyer’s restaurants are the latest in a series of popular New York dining rooms that require a vaccine. That includes Frenchette in TriBeCa where diners have to show proof of vaccine to eat indoors—or use the bathroom if they’re eating outside—as well as the new fish & chips spot Dame in Greenwich Village.
At the Michelin-starred Musket Room, in Soho, owner Jennifer Vitagliano started requiring proof of vaccine in early June. She says that 98% of guests are appreciative of it, but that some have questioned the legality. “There was one man who leaned over the host stand and got in my face and looked like he wanted to kill me,” she says. “I told him, we’re a private business, we make our own rules.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.