More positive than negative responses to some local restaurants, bars, venues requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 10:58 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - With the fourth COVID-19 surge worsening, the list of New Orleans restaurants, bars, and venues requiring guests to show proof of vaccination or a negative test keeps growing.

“Our reservations have doubled from where they were at this morning, to now,” Amarys Koenig Herdnon, chef and partner at Palm & Pine said.

It was a pleasant boost for Palm & Pine’s owners, unsure of how their Monday announcement would’ve landed.

“I think the negative is probably not from people that eat here that often,” Koenig Herdnon said. “It’s people that are looking for businesses that are doing this and wanting to call it out as the wrong choice. Our regular guests are thrilled and they’re excited to know that they can be in a place where they feel safer and that they know that we’re taking care of ourselves.”

The staff watched as the Delta variant quickly took hold, going from their best weekend since before the pandemic to a noticeable shift in their customers.

“Last weekend we were doing a lot more to-go again, more people wanting to sit outside, even though it’s super hot and not the most comfortable,” Koenig Herdnon said.

Pine & Palm is easing into the logistics, starting with requiring proof vaccination or a negative test for anyone who wants to sit at the bar or kitchen counter, where they’re face to face with fully vaccinated employees.

Next week, it’ll apply to the whole restaurant and they’re hoping other establishments will follow.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re not able to be as hospitable as we like to normally be, but at this point, we’ve got to keep ourselves safe, we’ve got to keep the city safe, we’ve got to do it,” Koenig Herdnon said.

Over at the completely booked-up Saffron NOLA, the requirement started Tuesday and they’re finding customers are proud to whip out their vaccine cards.

“That was sort of a sense of relief because it was the hardest thing to prepare my team for,” chef and owner, Ashwin Vilku said. “We didn’t know really what the response was going to be and from an in-person response, it was really lovely. From a social media standpoint, it’s going to be a lot of mixed things.”

Some people have pushed back saying it’s a HIPAA violation, but it’s not. HIPAA only applies to entities within the healthcare field, not a restaurant.

Some have also said it’s a violation of federal law, but it’s not. Under federal law, the only exemptions to the requirement are those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical or religious reasons.

However, if the requirement violates state law, that is a different story. Louisiana does not currently have any state laws that prevent businesses from requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test.

“It’s for our community. This is not a political decision, by any means,” Vilku said. “We’re not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, just simply, we have a business to sustain, we have a family and our staff to sustain, and we can’t lose that.”

You can upload your proof of vaccination on your LA Wallet app.

Click HERE for a list of businesses requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test.

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