Our opinion: Private sector COVID mandates deserve praise
The pandemic and last year's protests and riots have taken their toll on Portland businesses. Right now, if you're a restaurant owner, the instinct would be to do anything — anything — to churn up new customers.
Which is why it's praise-worthy that a growing contingent of people in the hospitality and entertainment sector are requiring COVID-19 vaccination cards or a negative test, plus photo ID, to get in.
These entrepreneurs seem to be saying: We want healthier customers rather than simply more customers. We want our overworked staff surrounded by vaccinated people.
Earlier this month, Powell's City of Books — arguably the finest English-language bookstore on Earth — reopened the coffee shop in the southwest corner of the building (the Southwest 11th Avenue and Burnside street side). Customers are allowed in, provided they have a vaccination card or a negative COVID test taken in the past 48 hours, plus ID. A member of the Tribune newsroom tried out the café recently and praised the woman behind the counter for the policy. "Oh, that's what we're hearing from everyone," she said, before taking the order.
The only downside: there were few available seats in the café. The place was hopping. There seemed to be little drama going on. Everyone stood in line, ID and card in hand, a pile of books to browse under their arms, eyeing the pastries and sodas and the big board of caffeinated favorites. No shouts of "freedom" or angst over the requirement.
Which, we suspect, means that private-sector vaccination mandates could have a bigger impact on the holdouts — those who, for whatever reason, refuse to be vaccinated — than would further government mandates.
It is inherently political if a city, county, state or the federal government demands people get vaccinated. That political nuance can stiffen some people's reaction to the vaccine.
But if a growing number of coffee shops, bars and restaurants privately mandate it, well, then the unvaccinated are just missing out on that cup of joe, mug of beer or excellent burger they'd been dreaming of.
And that incentive — decidedly less political in nature — could be the tipping point for the vaccine-hesitant.
A website, pdx.eater.com, offers a running list of Oregon restaurants and bars that now require proof of vaccination or a negative virus check. There's a wide array of them in Portland: Moloko, Mississippi Studios and Bar Bar, Andina, Higgins, Marco's Café, Noble Rot, Bertie Lou's Café, etc. The list is far too long to print here.
With the delta variant of COVID-19 still filling hospitals throughout the nation, and with the new omicron variant arriving on U.S. shores (in California), the coronavirus threat is far from over. Oregon has done better than most states to keep residents healthy; the state's total number of cases is the fourth lowest in the nation, while deaths from COVID-19 are sixth lowest in the nation. There's praise to be given there, as well.
But with a growing number of shops and eateries and entertainment venues — such as the so-called Portland'5: the Schnitzer, Winningstad, Keller, Newmark and Brunish theaters — requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test, the vaccine-hesitant will have one more incentive to help the community stop the spread of this illness.
We encourage readers to spend their money at venues that cater to the healthy.
These entrepreneurs have defined a different sort of bottom line for their places of business: the common good. Now, that's what we call Happy Hour.
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