An organized group of bar owners in San Francisco is considering a mandate for proof of vaccination from all patrons, in order to quell fears about the Delta variant and protect staff and customers alike as new COVID cases rise.
Assuming that the city health officer doesn't institute a new mandate in the coming days, the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance is mulling an industry-wide recommendation to demand proof of COVID vaccination — or a negative test less than 48 hours old — for anyone who enters. SFGate reports that the 500-member group will decide next week whether to make the recommendation formal, and the group would also print up signs to display outside each member bar.
A few SF bars have been doing this all along since being allowed open indoors — The Page on Divisadero, for instance, allows anyone to sit in their parklet outside, but requires proof of vaccination to sit indoors. And other bars have already begun demanding vaccine proof this week, including Vesuvio in North Beach, as SFGate reports.
Vesuvio owner Janet Clyde tells the site, "We just started it because it's clear that there's just a segment of the population that is not vaccinated. And really until this settles down, I think it's definitely safer for our staff and our clientele if we limit the indoors to people who have proof of vaccination."
On Friday, a coalition of Bay Area health officers issued voluntary guidance for all residents, vaccinated and unvaccinated, to mask up again when entering indoor public spaces, in order to slow the current surge in COVID cases. But while masks may still be a common site at grocery stores and pharmacies in SF, the majority of bartenders and bar patrons that SFist has seen in recent days are not taking the advice and throwing caution to the wind, likely because most of them are vaccinated.
Ben Bleiman, the owner of Teeth and Soda Popinski's and the former Tonic as well as the head of the Bar Owners Alliance, tells SFGate that he knew of very few bars that were demanding vaccination proof until this week. "Just in the last 24 hours, I've seen a lot of people changing their tunes. So I think we're in the middle of a big flux," he says.
Music venues, where profitability depends on packing people in for shows, have been promising vaccination-checks at the door, and only a few venues have reopened in SF so far. The Independent reopened on July 9, and they are now requiring all guests to download and display the HealthPass by CLEAR app, proving either a negative COVID test or vaccine proof, at the door. Bottom of the Hill reopens on August 13, and it's unclear how they plan to proceed vis a vis vaccination proof.
Update: SoMa nightclub/cabaret Oasis announced Wednesday afternoon that it will henceforth be requiring proof of vaccination, or a negative test, to enter.
New York and Hawaii have both created vaccine passports for residents, but this has become a political issue in many states where Republican governors and lawmakers have passed laws against such passports. Still, when it means the difference between keeping a business open or facing an outbreak and having to close down, business owners in the Bay Area may decide being strict is best.
Bleiman tells SFGate that he thinks that state and local governments have been too nice and deferential to people who won't go get vaccinated, and now it's just time to tell them they can't come inside bars until they do.
He adds that he's "anecdotally seeing a lot of [vaccinated] people come down with mild to medium cases of COVID," and it's starting to put people on edge. So rather than shut things down again, it may be time to take a different step.
As Bleiman said of his bar owner cohort in a quote to the Mercury News, "We’re a group that’s suffered so much the last 16 months. We're just tired of it."
Stay tuned for how this unfolds in the coming days.
Top image: Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images