San Francisco Chronicle

Proof of vaccine at bars is simple and reassuring


Recently, I did something I don’t normally do on a weekday: I went to Vesuvio Cafe and had a beer. While that’s not the strangest thing an adult San Franciscan could do on a Monday, I went specifical­ly to see how the North Beach bar was handling its vaccine requiremen­t for entry.

To get in, you show them proof of vaccinatio­n. Simple enough, right? The requiremen­t has gotten Vesuvio, famous as a meeting place for Beat poets, a load of hate from the antivaccin­e contingent, who have called the bar’s management “Nazis” because of the policy. But when I went there on Monday, the process was like going to a bar on any other night.

I walked up to the door, where there was a basic, markerwrit­ten sign about presenting your vaccinatio­n card. I actually don’t carry mine around, so I keep a phone screenshot of my digi

tal record, provided by the California Department of Health and obtained through myvacciner­ When I got to the bouncer, he asked for proof of my vaccinatio­n. I didn’t feel harassed or flustered; I just showed him my ID and that screenshot. He looked at it, and then I walked in. Considerin­g all the hullabaloo, I found the experience anticlimac­tic.

Oakland’s Snail Bar is another establishm­ent requiring vaccine proof for entry. It’s a policy the bar put into place after it was forced to close for a period when one of its staff members was exposed to COVID. Just like at Vesuvio, showing proof was painless. A host also looked at the screenshot of my digital record alongside my ID and let me in. And just like at Vesuvio, I rested easy knowing that everyone around me was guarded against the coronaviru­s. I licked butter off my fingers with abandon as I chowed down on escargot and a ham and cheese sandwich.

The one thing that makes me worry is the fact that my vaccine record has my name on it, which is scary when I’m trying to move about as a critic without being noticed. So far, no one seems to have made the connection that I’m a critic; this particular thing makes me panic, though it’s worry that’s confined to my particular circumstan­ce. I’ll sacrifice the critical sneak attack for peace of mind any day.

Overall, it was comforting knowing that all the folks packed into the bar likely also prioritize­d public health. I could squeeze inbetween them to sign my credit card receipt at the bar, even tip my glass against theirs if I felt like it. Yeah, it’s exclusiona­ry, but if someone eligible for vaccinatio­n decides not getting it is their personal choice — if they persist in engaging in antisocial behavior that could get people killed — then they can also choose to stay home. I’m not going to drink with them if I can help it.

I have to admit, delta’s got me spooked. Once again, I’m mulling whether I should stop dining inside restaurant­s — an act that COVID expert Dr. Bob Wachter, a professor and chair of the department of medicine at UCSF, said he’ll be avoiding for a while. Though I’ve been fully vaccinated for months now, there’s still that risk that I might become an unwitting transmissi­on vector; with the amount of dining out that I do, the potential for me to spread it far and wide throughout the Bay Area is too great. Eventually, that snowball will keep rolling downhill, growing in size, until it hits some unfortunat­e unvaccinat­ed person or child.

That’s why I’m encouraged by more restaurant­s and bars taking a stand to require vaccinatio­n proof for entry. It makes me feel safer, knowing that I’ll be around other people who generally care about not getting others sick. Although some vaccinated people are still testing positive for COVID19, the science shows that they’re unlikely to get seriously ill or hospitaliz­ed from it.

The remaining problem: Vaccine enforcemen­t shouldn’t be the jobs of the restaurant­s. Some bar owners and restaurate­urs who haven’t taken this step yet have said it’s because of logistics and fear of customer backlash. The California digital vaccine record isn’t working for everybody, and though many places are accepting physical vaccine cards or a photo of one, I’m sympatheti­c to neighborho­od restaurant­s that aren’t usually checking ID at the door and want to avoid a confrontat­ion. We’ve seen already that hospitalit­y and retail workers have been unfairly put into the front line of the COVID culture wars, pulled into horrible incidents that have sometimes ended in violence. No wonder no one wants to do those jobs.

What these restaurate­urs and workers need is a government vaccine mandate, so that they can have something external to point to when a customer acts up. But so far, nothing concrete, beyond mask recommenda­tions, has happened in California.

In the meantime, several states have already passed laws against requiring vaccine proof in statefunde­d establishm­ents and businesses. In France, a mandate to be vaccinated or show proof of a recent negative test has already shown dramatic impact for increasing vaccinatio­n rates.

A vaccine requiremen­t is a fine compromise when the alternativ­es are letting the virus run rampant once more, filling hospitals once again with sick unvaccinat­ed people and forcing another shutdown. I just hope the government can match these businesses’ courage with a real mandate.

 ?? Nick Otto / Special to The Chronicle ?? Thomas Malko, Andy Murray and Bowen Doxsee show proof of vaccinatio­n at the Latin America Club.
Nick Otto / Special to The Chronicle Thomas Malko, Andy Murray and Bowen Doxsee show proof of vaccinatio­n at the Latin America Club.

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