2 eating places in Oakland require proof of vaccination or a unfavorable COVID check
If you want to enter the spacious dining room of the Kon-Tiki after August 2nd, you will need proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Photo credit: Melati Citrawireja
Two restaurants in Oakland – the sumptuous Palmetto Steakhouse and tropical cocktails and small plates on-site Kon-Tiki – will soon require all diners to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test, co-owner Matt Reagan told Nosh . But while Reagan said he was concerned about the prospect of refusing to serve guests without proper documentation, the owner of a nearby bar that only allows vaccinated people says venues are seeing a surge after restrictions are in place of business should expect.
The changes at Palmetto and Kon-Tiki will begin gradually, Reagan said. From now until August 2nd (at the latest) everyone is welcome, but when the guests enter the restaurant, they must be masked. When guests sit down, they can pull out their vaccination card or show the QR code from California’s intermittent digital COVID-19 record. “You did, congratulations, you are a responsible citizen and we want to reward you,” said Reagan. Therefore, these guests are allowed to remain maskless for the duration of their stay, while those without a vaccination certificate must mask themselves when they are not actively eating or drinking or when interacting with staff.
After August 2, a date that Reagan said was chosen to “give everyone time to get used to the rules,” but it could rise if cases surge in a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours. It’s an imperfect system, Reagan admitted – after all, COVID-19 tests are hardly infallible – but “this is what we came up with and developed”.
“We don’t want to leave anyone out,” Reagan said of potentially unvaccinated guests, “so this seemed like the best solution.” After all, he said, “people have to get tested in order to get on a plane.”
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Reagan and its business partners made this decision as COVID-19 case rates skyrocketed in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. “Responsible people are already starting to avoid eating indoors,” Reagan said as the area’s hospitals fill up with patients, almost all of whom are unvaccinated. “I want the guests in our restaurants to feel that we are taking it seriously and that we are taking steps to prevent it from spreading further.”
While he firmly believes this new policy is the right decision for his restaurant, Reagan still sounds concerned about a possible setback. “Whichever way we turn, we’re going to scare some people off,” he said.
As of May 2021, guests at Eli’s Mile High Club – indoors and outdoors – must show proof of vaccination in order to enter. Photo credit: Sarah Han
Billy Joe Agan knows something about turning people off. He is a co-owner of Oakland Dive Eli’s Mile High Club, the live music venue that hit the headlines in May when it was announced that all guests must show proof of vaccination in order to be admitted. The bar’s Instagram post on May 18 announcing the new policy sparked a culture war among commentators, with social media users predicting the restrictions would destroy business.
Instead, Agan said to Nosh Wednesday, “We’re doing great.” Compared to summer 2019, he even said: “Our numbers were a bit higher than they normally would have been. it is also true that “open spaces do better, however”.
It’s clear that other bars and restaurants in the Bay Area viewed Elis as a bit of an Iroquois canary in the COVID-19 coal mine, watching closely to see if its strict rules would fill the spot. But on Tuesday, SF Gate reported that the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance’s beverage lobby might recommend its 500 members request vaccinations for their guests. Nosh asked the East Bay Venue Coalition, a similar group on our side of the bay, if they were considering a similar move, but that question has not been answered at the time of publication.
When Nosh shared Reagan’s plans for his venues, Agan responded with glee. “Good! The more the better!” Agan admits that customers at a swanky restaurant like Palmetto or a clever tiki spot like Kon-Tiki might be different from those at a dingy punk bar like Eli’s, but suggested that diners in upscale stores would be more likely to welcome these restrictions , not less.
According to Agan, aside from the nasty comments on social media, “things were just breezy”. He says they might have to turn away an unvaccinated guest once a day, but these people don’t stink. It’s more common, says Agan, for a vaccinated person to forget their card at home. “They work it out, go back and get it or whatever,” he says. “It’s not a big deal.”
Of course, Reagan said, “some people will lie” by producing forged documents. When asked whether he has seen many counterfeiters at Eli, Agan is doubtful. “Maybe? … But we are in the most vaccinated part of the country and … [falsifying documents] seems like a lot of work. “
In the end, says Agan, Reagan should expect initial outrage from “a handful of people” and then “a net positive for their public image.” After all, he says, Reagan should expect the reassurance that comes with knowing that his business is filled with people who are unlikely to get sick.
“I’m not worried about the Delta variant,” said Agan, as “everyone in the building is vaccinated”. Reagan clearly hopes for this carefree atmosphere. “Given the percentage of people in Alameda County who are vaccinated, I am ready to reward them. For the people who are not vaccinated, I still want them to come in, but I want them to be COVID free. “
It is worth remembering here that most people don’t go to the restaurant or bar business because they want to be hall guards or behavioral cops – this is a role being forced upon them by the pandemic, one that every cook, waiter, bartender and doorman takes over trying to figure out how to go.
“We were so scared when we had to educate people about how to wear masks,” Reagan said. “We lost a lot of sleep because of it,” especially after seeing how negatively guests in other parts of the country behaved when they were asked to follow simple rules. But the folks in his bar and restaurant followed the mask rules without too much trouble, so he hopes they will too when the industry grapples with another dangerous surge in infections. Palmetto and the new Kon-Tiki rules are because “I need to keep my staff healthy and busy,” Reagan said, and because “I want my guests to know they can get there safely.”
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