Saturday, November 27, 2021

How Seattle-Area Companies Are Fighting New King County’s “Show Proof of Vaccine or COVID Test”

A new King County rule, which took effect Monday, requires visitors to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or test negative in order to dine in bars and restaurants, work out in gyms and visit indoor entertainment venues such as theaters and museums. County King. The new rule also applies to conferences and conventions, as well as any large outdoor gatherings with more than 500 people, although children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine are exempt from this.

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So far, a day after the rule was implemented, business owners have mixed feelings about the new requirement.

Many restaurant and bar owners in the Seattle area have already demanded proof of vaccinations or a negative coronavirus test for patrons. And some Seattle museum executives and business owners are excited about the new measure, which public health officials say could help slow the spread of the virus. But other Seattle businesses say they’ve already lost customers to vaccination demands, and owners don’t want another regulation they say is hurting small businesses, especially at a time when they are already struggling with those. problems like labor shortages.

Leonard Garfield, executive director of the Seattle Museum of History and Industry, was eagerly awaiting the demand for vaccination and the impact it would have on museum visitors.

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“We think that ultimately our visitors and our community will feel safer knowing that everyone around them in this place is fully vaccinated and ready to enjoy life, knowing that they are healthy and safe,” he said.

Other museums, including the Burke Museum and the Luke’s Wing Museum, which will open no earlier than this week, also expect a smooth run for visitors.

Jeff Brain, who owns Far Away Entertainment’s Seattle area cinema group, is also optimistic – but wary – about the impact of the new rules on two of his Seattle cinemas: the Varsity Theater in the University District and the Historic Admiral Theater to the north. Admiral quarter.

He said that over the past four or five months, Far Away Entertainment has received emails from customers saying they will not be returning to theaters unless a vaccination policy is introduced. He hopes that once the need for vaccines is confirmed, cinemas can get more visitors. If so, Far Away Entertainment may consider introducing a mandate in theaters in other counties or running vaccine-only sessions.

However, some business owners are already seeing the negative impact of this requirement.

According to its owner, Charit Madavela, Transform 180, a personal training-focused gym located in Belltown and South Lake Union, lost 15% of its membership in the days before vaccine introduction or test requirements began. He said his income has not recovered to near pre-pandemic levels and the loss of members is a big blow. Many of his former clients still don’t come to workout, even if vaccinated, because they don’t want to exercise with a mask, he said.

Justin Young, who owns two Flow Fitness offices in Seattle, said he doesn’t think it’s fair that the government continues to impose new restrictions on the pandemic that hurt small businesses by not helping them manage spending.

John and Jess Carrico, owners of NW Fitness Gym, say they lost several gym goers and one employee before King County demanded the COVID-19 vaccine.  (Ken Lambert / Seattle Times)

Meanwhile, John Carrico, who owns the NW Fitness Gym in downtown Seattle with his wife Jess, said they also lost several gym visitors and an employee who didn’t want to get vaccinated due to demands. He said about 250 of the 450 gym goers have already sent in their vaccination cards, but he is disappointed with the amount of work that will be keeping track of the other 200 who may have missed his emails or were unwilling to get vaccinated.

“We’re unfortunately used to adapting to some form of regulation almost every three months for the past two years,” Carrico said. “This is just a huge burden for our team, which is already taxing.”

But he said they could have new limbs that are now comfortable exercising due to the need for the vaccine, which could help make up for the lost limbs they’ve seen so far.

For Michelle Cozzaglio, co-owner and curator of the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Washington State Convention Center on October 30, the new rules pose a major hurdle – in particular, the requirement that unvaccinated visitors test negative for coronavirus. within 72 hours after the event.

Cozzaglio, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has heard from customers who bought tickets weeks and months ago that testing delays could cause them to miss an event.

“I had to give money back to people, and we usually have no return,” she said. On top of that, the exhibit, which brings together sellers of dark art, taxidermy and other curiosity-type goods, had to hire staff to make sure all visitors were following the new rules.

Some Seattle restaurant owners see this requirement as another obstacle to profitability in an industry that has been hit particularly hard by past pandemic laws and labor shortages. They are also concerned that this requirement will put additional pressure on staff.

“Many restaurants struggled to hire workers during the pandemic, and adding staff to check vaccine status created an additional challenge,” said Steve Hooper, president of the Ethan Stowell restaurant group in Seattle. Stowell said in August that he had to delay opening some of his restaurants because he could not find staff to run them.

Bart Evans, owner of Bluwater Bistro in Leshy, Seattle, is so supportive of vaccinations that he turned his cafeteria into a vaccination clinic on October 27, but even he has mixed feelings about customer requirements because he worries about how to do it. … ensure compliance.

“Our staff is fully vaccinated,” Evans said. “It’s fair if we expect our customers to be like that.”

However, he is concerned that his staff will find themselves in a position where they will have to keep customers out of the restaurant. Its employees are used to greeting people rather than acting as bouncers.

“This is not the role we are used to,” Evans said. “We are not a nightclub on Pionerskaya Square.”

Seattle Times reporters Brendan Keely and Crystal Paul contributed to the story.

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