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What Philly restaurant owners are saying about the new vaccine mandate

“It’s the only way we’re going to have a chance of beating this pandemic," said Stephen Starr. "Business is booming in New York and people feel safe."

Waiter Tyler Waddle serves Gerard Gall and his party inside the El Camino Real Restaurant.
Waiter Tyler Waddle serves Gerard Gall and his party inside the El Camino Real Restaurant.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia will soon require proof of vaccination for any indoor spaces that serve food.

The mandate will go into effect Jan. 3, city officials announced Monday, and apply to restaurants, bars, stadiums, and entertainment venues. Patrons must show their vaccine card or a photo of it. Establishments found not to be in compliance with the order could face fines of up to $2,000 per day.

Many restaurateurs quickly reacted to the news. Here’s what some of them had to say.

» READ MORE: What you need to know about Philly’s vaccine mandate for indoor dining

Stephen Starr, owner of Barclay Prime, El Vez, Parc, Frankford Hall, and others

“I’m all for it,” said Starr, who owns 15 restaurants in Philadelphia and at least a half-dozen in New York City, which implemented similar measures in August. “It’s the only way we’re going to have a chance of beating this pandemic. Business is booming in New York and people feel safe.”

Jennifer Sabatino, operations director at Manatawny Still Works tasting room

“It’s about time. Other major cities have been having really good success with it. Coming from somebody who has to work and be face to face with people, it’s going to be nice to require vaccination cards. It lowers all our risks.”

» READ MORE: Philadelphia will require COVID-19 vaccine for anywhere food is served indoors, including restaurants and Wells Fargo Center

Jay Ho, owner of Mei Mei

“I’m all about the safety of the public, but I’m afraid of the negative fallout,” said Ho, who opened his Old City restaurant on March 12, 2020, four days before the city closed dining rooms. “Being a new business, I’ve received no help.”

Avram Hornik, owner of Harper’s Garden, Morgan’s Pier, and others

“As a longtime restaurateur in the city, I applaud our city leaders for taking this step, following similar action from leaders in New York City and San Francisco. The new vaccine mandate is good news for Philadelphia restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

“The only way to speed the end of the pandemic and protect the residents of Philadelphia is for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated — and vaccinated Philadelphians need places to have social gatherings where they know they will not be exposed to an unvaccinated person who could get them sick.”

» READ MORE: Philly restaurant owner: New vaccine mandate is good for everyone | Opinion

Rob Wasserman, owner of Rouge, Twenty Manning and Charley Dove

“It’s not often that I’m ahead of the curve,” said Wasserman, who months ago implemented vaccine mandates at his Rittenhouse restaurants. “With winter coming, we’re concerned about a resurgence [in COVID-19 cases] and I can see that the city is trying to be prudent about [managing] it.”

Wasserman said he had not seen a drop-off in business but instead felt proud to increase the safety to his staff and customers. The service experience is better in an establishment that allows vaccinated patrons and staff to doff their masks, he said. “As a bartender, you have a better way of relating to your customers and seeing their emotions.”

Matthew Yeck, an owner of Gaul & Co. Malt House

“We are beyond ‘enough is enough. … The long-term repercussions for our great city will be devastating. We believe in separation of food and state. As loyal patriots who own and operate businesses here in the birthplace of America, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore our freedoms slowly being taken away from us.”

Jason Evenchik, owner of The Goat Rittenhouse, Heritage, Vintage, and Time

“This is the only approach that allows staff and guests alike to enjoy the community experience that only bars and restaurants can provide,” said Evenchik, an owner of several bar-restaurants, which have had a mandate since vaccines first became widely available.