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On day one, vaccination mandates for restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul met grim resolution, temporary closures

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On day one, vaccination mandates for restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul met grim resolution, temporary closures

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On the first day that Minneapolis asked restaurant owners to check if restaurant patrons were vaccinated, Frank Gambino had all the tables and chairs stacked up at his four Andrea Pizza restaurants.

For now, it’s only take-out and delivery. After the pandemic devastated the downtown lunch business and cut his income by two-thirds, he could barely equip his kitchen and had no money to hire someone to check vaccination cards at the door, he said.

“We’re already getting killed,” Gambino said. “As much as I would love for everyone to get vaccinated, that’s just another reason why people don’t come downtown… We’re going to do the absence of seats, see how it goes for a week , then we’ll re-evaluate from there and maybe find something a little better.”

Bar and restaurant owners and their customers were faced with the new reality on Wednesday, a week after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter jointly announced that the cities would institute a vaccine or test mandate to stop the continued spread of COVID-19. .

While some small businesses independently adopted proof of vaccination policies long before cities made it mandatory, Minneapolis and St. Paul will now require customers to show proof of immunization or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours. for dining in bars, restaurants and anywhere else food and drink are served.

The requirement comes into effect on January 26 for paid events.

“When we’ve seen spikes over the past few years, businesses have had to shut down due to these high COVID numbers,” said Cindy Weckwerth, Minneapolis’ environmental health director. “But the goal here is to try to solve this problem in a different way so that businesses can stay open and people can stay safe.”

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the city of Minneapolis had not received any complaints from the public about non-compliant businesses.

Listen ! Café, a plant-based restaurant and bakery at 430 N. 1st Ave., passed a vaccine requirement for staff and customers last August in response to the Delta variant, following restaurant practices then common in the big cities like New York, Washington, DC and Los Angeles.

Chef Katherine Pardue said the public reaction was mixed – overwhelming support from regular customers and a slew of grievances from people who usually weren’t.

She recommends companies distribute their new policy and procedures as widely as possible: on door signs, on social media, on a recorded message played over the phone. Tone is important, Pardue said. “We don’t think this should be a politicized issue, so we don’t treat it as such, but just treat it like any other health and safety issue in the food industry, which is entirely dictated by the government.”

Apprehension of negative customer feedback was one of the reasons Jeff Zeitler of Urban Forage at 3016 E. Lake St. decided to close his tavern.

“In other cities where this has been tried, there have been incidents of violence against restaurant and bar workers who turned away healthy people without passports. It’s not something I’m with. ready to live,” he wrote in a statement released Tuesday, asking the public not to release employee information.

On Lake Street, where immigrant-owned restaurants are still recovering from civil unrest, entrepreneurs are “sticking together, some have quit and others are very concerned about the cumulative impact on their businesses,” said Allison Sharkey, director executive of the Lake Street Council.

“There are concerns about having the staff to enforce it, and concerns about turning away needed clients who are vaccinated but have not provided proof. The challenges are of course multiplied among immigrants and [Black, Indigenous and people of color] communities,” she said. “The City of Minneapolis could do more to support businesses, including providing retail information in multiple languages ​​and in different formats, including informational forums.

City of Minneapolis staff have developed multi-language front door signs for businesses and are working on multi-language posters to help employees read vaccination cards, state health department printouts and the Docket immunization verification app, as well as distinguish between home testing, which is not eligible, and testing performed by healthcare professionals, such as Vault Medical Services.

Staff speak to cultural radio stations and meet with immigrant business associations.

“[Business owners] are just a kind of resilient and robust group that is used to change, unfortunately,” said Enrique Velázquez, Minneapolis Licensing and Consumer Services Manager. “They’re trying to do their best to stay in this fight, stay on top of the latest changes…keep everyone safe and keep this outcome healthy as well so that at the end of the day when it’s all over, it’s there is still something to defend.”

In St. Paul, Brian Ingram, owner of several restaurants including Hope Breakfast Bar, took to social media Wednesday morning with an emotional appeal to diners and restaurant-goers.

“We’re scared, we’re scared to death, everyone I talk to in the restaurant is scared. What scares us is that we can’t afford to lose a customer. We can’t afford to lose a guest who chooses to dine out and come to our restaurants,” Ingram said.

It’s been a struggle for restaurants since they were asked to flatten the curve two years ago, Ingram said, and asked people to continue dining and supporting restaurants with kindness.

“Our biggest fear is that our restaurants will be politicized, that our restaurants will no longer be a place where you gather over a meal and share stories and love… but that they become these playgrounds policies where people can tell each other what we are doing wrong,” he said.

At Groundswell, a Hamline-Midway cafe, the first morning of the term went well, front desk manager Connor Squires reported.

“I think we have a pretty good clientele here who are willing to do what they need to do. Anyone who hasn’t had their vaccine card or a negative test on them has been able to take matters into their own hands and the people who wanted to dine there and had their vaccination card had no problem showing it to us and providing us with proof of vaccination,” he said.

The number of people seated for coffee hasn’t changed in recent weeks, Squires said. Going forward, he fears not all restaurants will apply the mandate in the same way.

“Having customer confusion if one restaurant applies it differently than another restaurant is the only type of issue that we are concerned about or can foresee in the future,” Squires said.

Writer Faiza Mahamud contributed to this report.

On day one, vaccination mandates for restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul met grim resolution, temporary closures

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