Vesuvio Cafe in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood has been asking customers to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination for the last month.
“For the most part, people have literally gone out of their way to thank us for enacting the policy,” bartender Zak Pavitt told CNN.
The order, announced by Mayor London Breed, requires some high-contact indoor businesses to see proof of vaccination from the customers and employees who go inside. The city said in a news release that everyone 12 years old and older will need to show vaccine proof and will be required to continue wearing a mask, even if they are vaccinated.
“Many San Francisco businesses are already leading the way by requiring proof of vaccination for their customers because they care about the health of their employees, their customers, and this City,” the mayor said in an August 12 statement.
“This order builds on their leadership and will help us weather the challenges ahead and keep our businesses open. Vaccines are our way out of the pandemic, and our way back to a life where we can be together safely.”
Vesuvio Cafe customer Nikki Logan Curry, who is visiting the Northern California city from Florida, said it was the first time she was asked to show a vaccine card at a business.
“I think a lot of people are going to have a stink about it, but I think a lot of people are going to be really happy that they were in a environment with like-minded people who feel like they’re making all the precautions they can do to stay safe,” Curry said. “We all just need to stick tighter. There’s no other way. We’re not getting out of it any other way.”
San Francisco’s mandate comes as both vaccinations and requirements to show proof of vaccination are hotly debated across the country – and while cases of the virus surge and hospitalization numbers climb, mostly among unvaccinated Americans.
In New York City, where a similar vaccination proof requirement went into effect this week, a group of restaurant owners and small businesses is suing the city and mayor in hopes of blocking the rule. They say the rule prevents people who choose not to be vaccinated from doing their jobs, and that it infringes on their religious freedom.
Back in San Francisco, some say that with the rise in Covid-19 infections and breakthrough cases, asking for proof of vaccination was a no-brainer.
Ben Bleiman, the founder of the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance, representing more than 300 bars, says checking vaccine cards is no different from checking IDs, which establishments are already accustomed to doing.
Bleiman said businesses in the alliance began asking for vaccine proof about two weeks ago, after noticing an “alarming number of breakthrough infections” among staff in the bar industry.
“None of them went to the hospital… but a lot of them have young children, some of them have elderly parents, people they take care of with them, you know, compromised issues and so we got really scared,” Bleiman said. “We got together and said we need to do (something) about this.”
The policy to ask for vaccine proof came up because many owners felt responsible for keeping their staff safe and were frustrated with people who were choosing not to get vaccinated.
“So we’ve been doing it for about two weeks now,” Bleiman said. “We made it the official policy of the alliance.”
Roughly 86% of eligible San Francisco residents have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to data from the city. About 79% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.