Regardless of if or how area restaurants and bars are enforcing the fully vaccinated indoor dining mandate, they all agree staffing levels are posing the biggest challenges.
All indoor patrons at bars and restaurants on the North Olympic Peninsula are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to be served inside due to an order issued Thursday by Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, that went into effect Saturday.
Acceptable forms of proof of vaccination include a completed CDC vaccination card, a state Department of Health Certificate of COVID-19 Vaccination, a printed copy of a state Department of Health vaccine record, a photograph of any of those documents, or an app-based vaccine passport.
The vaccine requirement only applies to those 12 and older who are eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The following is a sample of responses to the mandate:
Rick Mathis, owner of Smuggler’s Landing in Port Angeles, is abiding by the mandate. He offers outdoor dining and takeout for unvaccinated customers.
Mathis agrees with the mandate to help slow the spread of the virus, but he wishes people would stop abusing service staff for following it.
“These aren’t our rules, we’re just trying to do business and survive,” Mathis said. “The general public is getting angry and taking it out on us.
“I can honestly say I’ve been yelled at, called names more times, and I was even physically threatened with physical harm over bussing a table.
“I know we’re not alone; everyone has their own stories; but we shouldn’t be the targets.”
Two Fiesta Jaliscos
Fiesta Jalisco Mexican Restaurant in Port Hadlock is not requiring people to show proof of vaccination due to lack of staff and feeling its an invasion of privacy, the owner Elena Arceo said in Facebook posts on Thursday and Friday.
Arceo declined to comment further on Tuesday.
“We as an establishment will not participate in this act of tyranny disguised as ‘protection,’” her Thursday post said.
The Fiesta Jalisco in Port Angeles — a completely separate business — has posted the requirement on its door but is unable to check the vaccination status of individual customers due to the lack of staff, owner Jaime Bautista said.
Bautista agrees with the requirement, he said, but he is filling a variety of jobs at his establishment — cooking, dish washing and others — and so doesn’t have the personnel to do the checks.
In Port Hadlock, Arceo said in Facebook posts that her businesses follows cleaning protocols and screens employees.
“Taking a stand against the Vax Card Mandate is not us saying we are against or pro the vaccine nor does it mean we are unwilling to comply with our health department,” she continued.
“We have complied with everything we’ve been told to do. It’s about taking a stand on the responsibility of policing people being thrown at struggling businesses, owners and employees.”
Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge in Port Angeles is relying on the honor system because of a staffing shortage, but the restaurant tries to space customers out as much as possible, said owner Dee Garner, adding face masks are required when not eating.
“We’re fine, but we’re too busy to check everybody’s ID,” Garner said. “Everybody knows that we’re busy and short-handed.”
To have a person checking every customers’ vaccination status would’ve been a full-time job for two people on Sunday, Garner said.
Not enough time
Kris Nelson, owner of Sirens Bar, Alchemy and the Old Whiskey Mill in Port Townsend, is following the mandate and said she understands some measure is needed in the face of a COVID-19 surge, but she feels restaurants weren’t given enough time to prepare.
The mandate was announced Thursday and went into effect Saturday.
She added that more guidance should be provided as to what qualifies as proof of vaccination, especially for customers from out of state.
“Very disappointingly, we were given a list of things to look at, but there were no examples given of what these things were,” Nelson said.
“So, vaccine cards from different states and different countries, they look totally different, and we were put in a strange position to accept anything that looks valid and some sort of legal document saying they were vaccinated and have a date and some sort of stamp on it.”
The mandate is extremely labor intensive, the industry is seeing extreme labor shortages, and the new mandate feels rushed, she said. It doesn’t require cross checking ID to make sure the proof they’re showing is actually theirs, Nelson said.
She is grateful that all three of her establishments have outdoor dining, allowing customers regardless of vaccination status to sit down and eat.
Barhop Brewing and Artisan Pizza in Port Angeles closed its doors temporarily from Saturday to 3 p.m. Thursday due to losing staff stemming from owner Tom Curry following the mandate, and also to allow the staff to adjust.
Barhop has closed a few times during the course of the pandemic to adjust to requirement changes. It also has hosted vaccination clinics.
Adjusting to the new mandate is just another way for the restaurant to support the public health department, Curry said.
Recognizing his decision may not be popular, he said he stands by it.
“My opinion, this past weekend was just another bump in the course of the COVID-19 pathway,” he said. “From the start of the pandemic, we think the safest way out of the pandemic is to follow public health guidelines.
“I personally think Dr. Berry is extremely courageous and heroic. This is not an easy subject to tackle, and she has the education and experience to guide our county. I don’t.”
New Moon Craft Tavern in Port Angeles was among those that restricted indoor use to only the fully vaccinated before the mandate was announced.
Manager Brian Cocker is glad for the support of the public health department.
“We felt that this was the safest thing we could do for our community,” Crocker said. “We got a lot of hate online very quickly for it, and that was not fun.
“It was nice for the county to come out a day later saying, ‘Yep, this is going to go into effect.’ It did feel good that it wasn’t just us thinking the same way.
“We think it’s just the best thing we can do for our town, and if people hate us for it, that’s on them.
“Most people who have come in in the last week have thanked us for doing it because it gives them a place they can feel more comfortable in.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]