Mike Tomasi and his business partners want to meet the needs of everyone.
So when Denver joined four other metro counties last week to mandate that businesses require employees and customers to wear masks or instead ask for proof of vaccination from all patrons, Optimum Golf owners decided. OK, both.
Their indoor golf facility in River North doesn’t require masks, but anyone who enters must be vaccinated, while their Park Hill location is open to all—but they must wear a mask inside.
“If we go aside, people will think something of us,” Tomasi said. “If we go the other way, we exclude one side of our customer base.”
As COVID-19 cases surged in Colorado during November and hospitals neared capacity, Denver and most of its surrounding counties lobbied for statewide action, then, when that didn’t come, over an indoor mask mandate. Coordinated, though each of them gave businesses the ability to opt-out by enforcing vaccine requirements instead.
For a host of Denver breweries and restaurants, the “wax-or-mask” decision was easy, but plenty of other businesses say it’s not possible to check vaccine cards without adding additional staff, which is hard work to come by. be difficult. Market. And without a broad vaccine mandate for businesses, everyone still has to decide for themselves.
“The thing that exhausts us is that it’s always the case at small business that requires proof of vaccination to eat their restaurant,” said Justin Morse, owner of Brasserie Brixton. We did not take strict measures, so the government took the decision when we opened and closed. Now the culmination of these local decisions, these national decisions, is that my little restaurant must have police officers with COVID cards. It’s disturbing.”
choose between mandates
According to the mayor’s office, since Mayor Michael Hancock’s announcement last week, 400 Denver businesses have opted to become the city, which is said to be a fully immunized facility.
The numbers are far lower in Jefferson, Adams and Arapaho counties, which implemented similar rules last week: 39 Jefferson County businesses are seeking exemptions from mask orders, local officials said, while 30 have applied for Adams and Arapaho counties. applications have been submitted.
Boulder County was the first in the metro area to reinstate an indoor mask mandate, in early September. Since then, 263 businesses in the county have been certified to verify the vaccination status of patrons, according to Boulder County Public Health.
To apply for such a mask exemption, businesses must submit plans to their local health departments detailing how they will verify that at least 95% of the people in their buildings have been vaccinated at any given time. They could also opt for a more-limited exemption – for example, a gym wanted to allow only vaccinated people to attend an intense exercise class so they could go without a mask.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health and Environment said Denver has filed 78 complaints since the mandate went into effect last week, most related to not wearing masks.
A host of Denver breweries and restaurants decided to remove the masks and go for proof-of-vaccination instead, following Hancock’s announcement.
Shortly after Mayer’s press conference, James Howett, owner of Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, went to get a drink at another bar. He didn’t pass another soul while he was wearing his mask at the bar. But as he went to grab a seat, he took off his mask, as did his neighbors, who were no more than two feet away from him.
“I thought, what is this really doing?” Howat said. “What is it doing to stop hospitals from getting overwhelmed?”
For bars and restaurants like Black Project, Howett, the need for vaccinations makes far more sense. After posting the brewery’s vaccine decision to Facebook, the owner said he had some people call him a Nazi and said he was going out of business. But this post was also one of the most liked posts in those months.
“I wish I didn’t have to kick people out,” he said. “But if this mandate is about reducing hospitalizations, I can’t do the mask work and think I’m doing my part.”
With staffing issues at large in the food service industry, Ilona Botton realized that in addition to employee safety and comfort, her Trellis Wine Bar in Park Hill couldn’t afford to lose someone for a long period of time when they got sick – another Reasons to choose Vaccines Required.
“We don’t want to lock the doors because someone came in and wasn’t vaccinated,” Boughton said.
When Morse of Brasserie Brixton was deciding to go the same route, he looked at the numbers, noting that nearly 90% of Denver adults had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We figured from a business matter, there really wasn’t much to lose”, he said, adding that his restaurant has a small dining room anyway.
The business logic prompted Tomasi and Optimum Golf’s partners to split their locations based on mask and vaccine requirements, subscribing to a famous Michael Jordan line: “Republicans buy sneakers too.”
“His principle was, ‘Stay out of it, you’re a business,'” Tomasi said. “We wanted to look at it from a business standpoint and not take sides and have people wonder where we stand.”
not enough manpower
Other retailers said staffing issues have made it impossible to check every person who walks through the door – some bars, breweries and music venues are already better equipped.
Paul Epstein, owner of Twist & Shout Records on East Colfax Avenue, has been cautious about pandemic safety from the start, closing his stores last year before the city and state shut things down and made vaccinations mandatory for his employees. .
But on a typical weekend, his shop might get a thousand customers who come to see the record.
“I don’t have the manpower to check everyone’s vaccination status,” Epstein said, “It gets difficult when you’re talking about checking for booster shots or the minimum age requirements for each client.” Is. He wished that the government had made it easier for business owners to implement these policies.
“It’s too much for individual businesses to try and handle without government help,” Epstein said.
Kwame Spearman, the CEO of the tattered cover bookstore chain, wanted to make sure all of his employees were vaccinated, but felt it didn’t make sense to put a vaccine mandate in place for customers who had come for a short period of time to pick up the books. ,
“Due to the nature of the type of customer coming and browsing and hopefully buying and exiting – and not necessarily staying for long periods of time and engaging in an activity that requires them to remove the mask – we have come up with the need for masks. Felt comfortable,” she said.
Denver Post journalists John Aguilar and Joe Rubino contributed to this report.
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