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Get those vaccine cards ready: More local restaurants requiring proof for indoor diners

A growing number of local restaurants and bars have begun requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining.

Posted Updated

Kathy Hanrahan
, Lifestyle Editor, & Sarah Krueger, WRAL reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — A growing number of local restaurants and bars have begun requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining.

Gov. Roy Cooper stopped Thursday afternoon at Carrboro's Pizzeria Mercato, one of the first area restaurants to require proof of vaccination for diners inside.

"Not a single person who lives in my community and chooses to eat with us on a regular basis has had anything negative to say about it," said Gabe Barker, owner of Pizzeria Mercato. "If anything, we have been busier because people feel like they can walk in the door here, and be comfortable, be safe, while they choose to dine."

Barker's wife is an ICU nurse.

Cooper said that all options, including making proof of vaccination a requirement for dining indoors, are being considered.

"I think we first need to get local buy-in for doing this," Cooper said. "We are continuing to encourage businesses, employers, healthcare companies to do everything they can to get people vaccinated. We required our state employees to get vaccinated. If they don’t, they have to get tested every week and wear a mask."

Cooper compared proof of vaccination to the school mask mandate with local districts making it mandatory despite a lack of a state mandate.

"We owe it to those healthcare workers. We owe it to the people who can get sick from COVID, to do everything we can to encourage vaccinations. Vaccinations are our way out of this pandemic," Cooper said. "I would encourage other businesses and other employers to do this. And I think Gabe will tell you that his business is better than ever. And part of that is people knowing they are coming to a safe place to eat."

More than 20 restaurants, bars and music venues across the Triangle have announced vaccine requirements. Some are also accepting negative COVID-19 tests.

On Wednesday, Alley Twenty Six, a cocktail bar in Durham, began requiring proof of vaccination for patrons dining inside and outside.

"The overwhelming response has been positive. The only negative responses I’ve gotten are from people who have never been here before," Alley Twenty Six owner Shannon Healy said. "It's not a political statement. It’s just what makes the most sense for us."

Healy is also requiring staff to be vaccinated.

"I don’t know if people realize how hard it is to hire people right now, so anything I can offer them, like a safer space to work, anything we can do to get people to be willing to work, we should do," Healy said.

This week, Durty Bull Brewing in Durham started requiring proof of vaccination for those drinking indoors.

"We wanted to do anything we can to protect our staff and our families. I, myself and our brewer, have unvaccinated kids that aren’t able to be vaccinated yet. And some of our staff lives with immunocompromised family," Durty Bull Brewing owner Matt Pennisi said. ​"We really want to do everything we can to protect our people, our employees, and the community."​

Pennisi said most of the customers have enjoyed the change and are grateful for the security it provides, but added that a handful of "Instagram trolls" have complained.

"Everyone has been more than compliant, more than ready. We’re trying to make it easy for people by providing QR codes to where you can look it up on the NCDHHS website and have links for where to get it from your Duke MyChart account," Pennisi said.

Diner Keith Moore said Thursday that he is in favor of more restaurants requiring vaccination proof.

"I think it creates a safe environment for those who go to the restaurant," Moore said. "I see the challenge it brings to the restaurant. I think that there has to be a medium and some easy way for people who want to come into the restaurant to share that they have been vaccinated."

The Players' Retreat in Raleigh was among the first restaurant in the area to reopen with a policy that only allows COVID-19 vaccinated people inside to dine. Outdoor seating is open to all.


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