Following the recent mask mandate, rumors have been swirling about whether or not San Francisco will introduce a vaccine mandate for indoor dining. Well, diners, it’s happening: At a press conference Thursday morning in front of the one and only Vesuvio Cafe in North Beach, officials announced San Francisco will require proof of vaccination for indoor dining, effective on August 20. So if you would like to eat inside a restaurant or drink inside a bar in San Francisco, you better get ready to proudly flash that vaccine card.
“We know that for our city to bounce back from the pandemic and thrive, we need to use the best method we have to fight COVID-19 and that’s vaccines,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “Many San Francisco businesses are already leading the way by requiring proof of vaccination for their customers because they care about the health of their employees, their customers, and this City. This order builds on their leadership and will help us weather the challenges ahead and keep our businesses open. Vaccines are our way out of the pandemic, and our way back to a life where we can be together safely.”
San Francisco, following New York City, is the second city in the country to lay down a vaccine mandate and is the first and only city and county in the Bay Area to do so. This announcement is only coming from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, not the broader Bay Area coalition that’s worked together in the past. The mandate applies not only to restaurants and bars, but also gyms, clubs, theaters, and other indoor events spaces.
Specifically, diners will be required to show proof of vaccination with a physical vaccine card, a photo of their vaccine card, or a QR code obtained through the state website, and restaurants and bars will have to check those against a photo ID. Both doses of the vaccine are required (unlike in New York, where they’re only requiring the first dose). Negative COVID tests will not be accepted. The mandate does not apply to children under the age of 12, who aren’t eligible to get the vaccine yet, and it won’t apply to anyone picking up to-go orders. And while diners will need to start showing proof of vaccination on August 20, restaurants and bars will also need to confirm the vaccine status of their employees by October 13.
“In this phase of the pandemic, we must optimize the powerful tool of vaccines to protect us as we fully reopen to business,” Dr. Grant Colfax of the SF Department of Public Health said in a statement. “These past few weeks have demonstrated how important it is that everyone eligible is vaccinated as we resume normal activities.”
New York was the first city in the United States to announce a vaccine mandate for indoor dining, starting on August 16. But it’s been up for discussion in San Francisco for a while now, and many restaurants and bars have already taken matters into their own hands. The San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance put out a statement recommending bars check for proof of vaccination starting July 29, and a growing number of restaurants and bars have voluntarily opted to do so. But this mandate makes it official: now all restaurants and bars will be required to start double carding.
It’s a direct response to the highly contagious delta variant, which continues surging in the Bay Area. San Francisco is currently reporting 247 new COVID cases per day on the seven-day average, back up to the level we were seeing during the holiday surge, which then prompted a full lockdown. The good news is that 85 percent of San Francisco residents ages 12 and over have at least gotten one jab. Health officials continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated, as the unvaccinated are at the highest risk for hospitalization and death, and to require masks indoors, because although rare, even vaccinated people can still get and spread the disease.
Restaurant and bar owners have shared mixed feelings about moving to a vaccine mandate for indoor dining. The current mask mandate is easy to check at a glance, but “A vaccine mandate would be next level,” Marialisa Lopez of Pearl 6101 told Eater SF a couple of weeks ago. “That would be much more complicated to enforce.” Sixty-six percent of restaurant owners said they would support an indoor mask mandate, according to a survey from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. But even if they would comply, it’s more complicated in practice, as restaurants may need to train staff, watch multiple entrances, and manage customer conflicts. “Unless the city [makes] it a mandate, then you’re leaving it to vulnerable restaurant workers to face potentially volatile situations on our own,” chef Pim Techamuanvivit of Nari and Kin Khao told Eater at that time. Now that the city has stepped in, we’ll see how it works in practice.