SAN FRANCISCO - The weekend is almost here and many people are looking for a night out on the town. But in San Francisco, that could mean bringing proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
San Francisco's COVID-19 positivity rate has steadily increased over the last month. Now, some restaurants and bars are saying they will require customers to show proof they've been vaccinated before being allowed indoors.
Ben Bleiman from the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance says 300 or so bars are set to make a formal decision next week about requiring proof of vaccination. "So we are making a decision," said Bleiman. "We're going to make it next week, we're going to decide on whether all of the bars together in the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance are going to require proof of vaccination or 72 hour negative test to enter any bar."
Unvaccinated customers will still be allowed in outdoor areas, but the Bar Owner Alliance says some bartenders and workers indoors are already starting to see breakthrough COVID-19 infections even though they're vaccinated. The bars saying while it may encourage more customers to get the vaccine, they are making the move to protect their workers and their workers families. "If people get convinced because of us, great," said Bleiman. "But, this is not a moral stand we're taking. This is us looking at the data and saying we need to protect our staff now, before it's too late."
Some restaurants are already requiring proof of vaccination.
"As of yesterday, we started doing proof of vaccination. We are doing this purely for our staff and their families to keep them safe," Texas Enkil, a manager at the Seven Stills Brewery and Distillery in Mission Bay said.
Friday night, guests had no problem showing their vaccination record, either on paper or on their phone, to get a seat inside.
"I definitely feel much safer knowing that everyone here is vaccinated" Lina Osofsky, who works in San Francisco, said.
Seven Stills will accommodate guests who don't have proof of their vaccination record by seating them outdoors.
"You're not going to be told ‘no,’ but we are going to say please sit at our beer garden or pour parklet, we still want to accommodate all guess no matter what," Enkil said.
The rules to get seated are stricter at Gozu, a fully-indoor upscale Japanese restaurant in the Financial District.
Starting Saturday, when you book your reservation online, you'll agree to show proof of vaccination, and have the option to text or email your vaccination record, or bring it with you. No record, no exceptions, unless you're under the age of 12.
"With this kind of thing, its gotta be very much a 'you have it or you don't have it,' if we're going to do something we've got to do it all the way," Marc Zimmerman, the restaurant's chef and owner said.
At Vesuvio Cafe, two recent breakthrough COVID-19 cases among employees caused the bar to start requiring proof of vaccination since Tuesday, Janet Clyde, the managing owner, said.
Outside of San Francisco, several bars in Oakland are following suit, and the Habidasher cocktail bar in downtown San Jose started requiring proof of vaccination back in June.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association released a statement saying while they support the Bar Owner Alliance it would be impractical for many restaurants to do the same. But did say "we will continue to follow and amplify the guidance of San Francisco and regional health officials, with a focus on the strong need for vaccinations. We recently strongly recommended that our members follow the new indoor masking recommendations issued July 16th. "
The head of San Francisco's Office of Economic and Workforce Development saying private businesses like bars and restaurants can amplify the city's message urging workers and customers to get the vaccine. "The idea of employers incentivizing their own employees and customers to be vaccinated is really about our small businesses helping themselves stay in business and helping our community to overall try to step up," said Kate Sofis from San Francisco's Office of Economic and Workforce Development
Bleiman from the Bar Owner Alliance said with vaccine requirements likely, he's ready for any potential backlash. "Let's be really clear about this. We don't care about potential pushback. The worst that they can do is not come to our establishments, which is exactly what we're asking them to do," said
While there are no formal plans for a so-called vaccine passport in the city, San Francisco is encouraging as many people as possible to get vaccinated, including requiring city workers to get immunized.
"I think that unvaccinated people are going to feel left out, a sense of FOMO", Osofky, who was enjoying a night out with friends at Seven Stills said, "and hopefully that will incentivize them to actually get the vaccine."