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The manager of an exclusive New York City restaurant insisted it was focused on the safety of its guests, after the former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin dined there despite not being vaccinated against Covid-19.
New York City laws require proof of vaccination for indoor dining.
The city government said Palin should “follow the rules just like everyone else”.
Palin tested positive repeatedly on Monday, delaying the start of her defamation trial against the New York Times in Manhattan federal court.
Palin, who also tested positive in March last year, has said she will not get vaccinated.
In December, she told a conservative audience in Phoenix: “It’ll be over my dead body that I’ll have to get a shot. I will not do that. I won’t do it, and they better not touch my kids either.”
In a statement, Luca Guaitolini, manager of Elio’s, the restaurant on the Upper East Side, responded to the news Palin was seen eating there on Saturday.
“We are taking this isolated incident – and unfortunate oversight – very seriously,” Guaitolini said. “Elio’s adheres to and believes in the vaccine mandate, and all it is doing to protect our staff, regulars and the dining public.”
Guaitolini said he was not working on Saturday. He told the Times first-time diners were checked but Palin dined with an unidentified “regular”.
“She probably just walked in and strolled over” to the table, Guaitolini said. “We are trying to get to the bottom of this.”
In his statement, he said: “My focus right now is on the safety of my staff who worked the floor that night, and on our guests.”
The restaurant was contacting diners to let them know of possible exposure, he said.
The New York city government said: “The Key to NYC rules were put in place to protect all New Yorkers – including the small businesses that power our city’s economy.”
“Ms Palin needs to respect small business workers and follow the rules just like everyone else.”
Palin did not comment. On Monday night, she confirmed her Covid test and told Fox News she felt “totally fine”. She also declined to comment on her case against the Times, over a 2017 editorial on her comments about gun violence.
The Times said Elio’s, open at East 84th and Second Avenue since 1981, was known for “famous clientele” including Tom Hanks, Joan Didion and Mick Jagger.
The paper also cited an obituary for the restaurant’s founder, Elio Guaitolini, which described “an informal clubhouse for Manhattan’s social and media elite”.
The founder’s son said Palin was “a controversial person wherever she goes” and wished her “a speedy convalescence”.
Among New Yorkers who spotted Palin dining at Elio’s, Shawn McCreesh, a writer for New York magazine, alluded to a famous impression of the politician on a New York City institution, Saturday Night Live.
“My mom thought she was Tina Fey,” he tweeted.