NEW YORK CITY – Restaurants in New York City suffered greatly during mandatory lockdown measures – and later, limits imposed on occupancy – while in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that those restrictions have been lifted, eateries in the Big Apple are still feeling a sting related to the pandemic in the form of the “Key to NYC,” Mayor Bill De Blasio’s vaccine mandate.
Restaurant owners in the city are reporting that due to the Key to NYC – which mandates that individuals must show valid proof of vaccination in order gain access to indoor dining, entertainment venues, and gyms – has caused business to plunge for some establishments by as much as 40 to 60 percent, which can be devastating in a high-rent city like Manhattan.
In addition to lower traffic due to those who have not received the jab not being able to dine in, some restaurateurs say, the mandate is creating all-new expenses for them, including needing to hire people to check vaccination cards of customers entering the business and the need to construct outdoor dining spaces.
Fergal Burke, the owner of O’Donoghue’s, noted that his restaurant has seen a huge drop in customers since the Key to NYC enforcement officially kicked in on September 13, and that business owners are unfairly being forced to bear the brunt of resentment from customers when they are turned away.
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“Our business is definitely down 50, I’m going to say 60 percent. There’s just not people coming into the restaurant, they have the fear of being asked for vaccines,” he said. “They’re being refused and they get a resentment against us, they don’t get a resentment against Bill de Blasio or Biden, or whoever is mandating us to check for this. It comes as a personal rejection. We don’t want this mandate, we want nothing to do with this.”
Burke also observed the irony of vaccination cards being required to use restaurants and theaters, but not to use NYC’s famously jam-packed subway cars.
“I mean how is that fair in New York City, that the trains are jammed with people with a silly mask on and they’re not being mandated to show nothing, and yet they’re coming against the heart of the city. We’re the ones that’s trying to keep 20 people employed here,” he said. “We will go out of business if this continues, it’s gonna force us to shut our doors.”
Stratis Morfogen, a manager and partner at Brooklyn Chop House, also confirmed that business is down massively due to the vaccine mandate.
“Business is down probably 50 percent because people are not comfortable with being forced to take a vaccine,” he said.