Some of Hazy Barbecue’s Instagram followers disliked Tuesday’s announcement that Restaurant Danville would begin checking diners inside to prove they had received their COVID-19 photos.
The post was immediately inundated with so much vitriol that the restaurant shut down comments completely.
It was a rocky start for Hazy Barbecue’s attempt to comply with Contra Costa County’s latest health order, which went into effect on Wednesday.
Intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 fueled by the delta variant since the start of the summer, the health order requires anyone entering restaurants, bars and gyms to prove that they have been vaccinated. The order broadly applies to all indoor businesses where people breathe heavily from exercise or remove their masks to eat or drink.
Contra Costa is the first Bay Area county outside of San Francisco to adopt the “vaccine passport” policy, which also went into effect last month in Berkeley.
“People need to know that it is not our fault that the regulations change and that we have to comply with them,” said Brendan Harrigan, co-owner of the Hartz Avenue restaurant in downtown Danville.
Customers who refuse to show proof of vaccination are supposed to either be directed to the outdoor space of a business or be asked to leave.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the new health order was already complicating a Danville couple’s plans for an early dinner. Doug Thompson said he was fully vaccinated but will have to sit outside with his wife, who left her phone and vaccination card at home.
Thompson sympathized with the restaurateurs, saying they would now be forced to play the hall monitor. And he was skeptical that the order would have the desired effect at the end of the day.
“I think anti-vaxxers are going to continue to be anti-vaxxers, although that can be troublesome,” Thompson said. “I don’t think it’s going to change anyone’s mind… it might change a few, but not a lot.”
A restaurant manager said on Wednesday morning he was preparing for the difficult conversations he expected to have hours later with customers who could prank him if he was turned down.
“We want to comply, but we don’t think it’s our responsibility to watch the public,” said Patrick Kelly, who manages Norm’s Place restaurant and cocktails in Danville.
Kelly said patrons who dined inside Norm’s Place – which flaunts an American flag above the bar – complied with past health rules, such as mask warrants, without causing grief to staff.
As the latest wave of COVID-19 appears to be abating, 126 people are currently hospitalized with the virus in Contra Costa, and 44 of them have been admitted to intensive care, according to county data.
The county has recorded eight deaths from COVID-19 so far in September. Of 631 deaths since December – when vaccines first became available – 95% were people who had not received COVID-19 vaccines.
Contra Costa Health Services, which announced the new ordinance last week, said its main goal was not to crack down on non-compliant companies, but rather to educate them, as well as the community, on the practices. sure.
“That said, the application for not complying with this health ordinance is the same as for not complying with other health ordinances,” agency spokesman Will Harper said in an email. . “The county will investigate complaints about businesses that violate health ordinances and act accordingly. “
Maria Gonzalez, an employee of the Valley Medlyn cafe, said a couple of customers initially refused to show proof of vaccination on Wednesday, but did so reluctantly after learning about the new policy. Nonetheless, she is concerned that other interactions with customers will become more confrontational.
The outdoor patio at the Revel Kitchen and Bar is large enough that owner Curtis deCarion is hoping it can accommodate those who are not vaccinated or who refuse to prove they are.
As a business owner, deCarion said, he “would never want to turn away clients” even though it is a reality he is about to face.
“We understand why we have to do it,” said deCarion. “We’re not really excited about it, but we’re doing what we have to do these days to survive.”
A calm Wednesday afternoon saw only a few patrons sitting at Hazy Barbecue – the calm before a storm of patrons expected during dinner hours. While Harrigan, the restaurant’s co-owner, was being interviewed, he noticed that some customers at a table inside had yet to show his staff their vaccination cards.
Dealing with them would be the next item on his to-do list, Harrigan said.