Fines on the menu: NYC begins enforcing proof of vaccine mandate in restaurants, theaters, gyms

·3 min read

Along with tossing the pizza, preparing the pasta and cashing out customers at Manhattan’s Harlem Crust Pizza, Eugenio Daulia has a new job — policing the patrons for vaccine shots.

The busy restaurant worker’s new duties started Monday as New York City began enforcing a vaccine mandate requiring patrons dining in bars, restaurants and coffee shops to show proof that they have been inoculated from the menacing coronavirus.

The directive has been in place for weeks, but the mandate entrée is now accompanied by a side of stiff fines, and struggling owners don’t need more trouble on the menu.

“For me, it’s a little hard because I’m working a lot,” said Daulia, 45, who had blocked off the dining area with wooden posts to separate it from the rest of the pizzeria. “I turn the lights off back there, I put those up. Nobody inside. Only if you have a card.”

The city’s new “Key to NYC” mandate requires workers and patrons to provide proof of at least partial vaccination to go indoors at restaurants, museums, gyms and entertainment venues.

Noncompliant businesses get a $1,000 fine for the first offense, $2,000 for a second violation and $5,000 per incident for subsequent violations.

The timing of the enforcement coincides with the opening of Big Apple institutions — Broadway and the city’s public schools.

City officials said the mandate will help keep New Yorkers safe and keep pandemic anxiety at bay.

“I think folks understand by now we are resolute, and if anyone wants to not follow the rules that everyone else has to follow, then of course there will be consequences,” Mayor de Blasio said.

“This helps everyone feel safe. This gives every one of the customers the knowledge that they are safe, the employees know they’re safe, it’s everyone moving forward to getting our city back. You’re going to be safe wherever you go — movie theater, gym, restaurant — you’re going to be safe.”

The mayor painted a rosy picture of the mandate, saying that businesses were “overwhelmingly” complying with the new rules.

De Blasio said inspectors from 13 civilian agencies who hit the streets to enforce the mandate were focusing on making sure businesses “get it right.”

“We don’t want to fine people we don’t have to,” he said. “We want to just get it right, keep moving forward.”

But Freddie Mitaj, manager of Fresco’s Pizzeria in Washington Heights, thinks the city got it wrong. He said the mandate to require proof of vaccinations is already turning some customers off, especially patrons who aren’t regulars.

“We ask them, ‘You want to stay or go?’ If they wanna stay, we ask them for their card,” he said. “We’re not getting pleasant feedback.”

The fear and frustration are compounded, he said, because employees are asking customers to not only show their vaccine cards, but a photo ID as well to ensure the vax card isn’t a fake.

“You need an ID to eat, but you don’t need one to vote,” Mitaj said. “We’ve already been hurt during the pandemic. Now we’re going to be hurt by the government, by the city.”

Gracie Cummings, 21, a barista at Manhattanville Coffee, said the customers have been as cool as the whipped cream.

“It’s been really positive,” she said. “Everyone’s been understanding, and the staff all got our vaccines back in March. Every now and then you get a few complainers, but for the most part people are really positive.”

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