“Look, I know this isn’t easy, but I will have their backs,” Biden said yesterday, thanking Walmart, Google, Netflix, Disney and Tyson Foods for mandating vaccines for their workforces despite, in some cases, pushback by unions. (Tyson’s mandate on Tuesday was notable for covering all of its 120,000 workers in the United States, including those in slaughterhouses and poultry plants.) Other companies “have declined to step up,” Biden said. “I find it disappointing.”
As for mandates on customers, like the one announced in New York City, some businesses like Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, which runs Blue Smoke and Gramercy Tavern, have already made the move. Others are less sure. “I don’t want the government mandating anything to me,” Tilman Fertitta, the C.E.O. of Landry’s, the parent of Del Frisco’s, Bubba Gump Shrimp and other chains, told CNBC. “I don’t know that I’m quite there yet, telling you you can’t come into my restaurant unless you’re vaccinated.”
It’s not like asking for ID for a drink. Vaccine mandates for restaurants could make an establishment more appealing for some, but also create the potential for strife, as with mask requirements. (The logistics of monitoring New York’s 25,000 restaurants and bars will also be challenging, to say the least.) “Checking vaccination status isn’t like ID-ing a customer before serving them a drink,” a spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association told DealBook. In France, a similar mandate prompted protests.
The country is deeply divided on the issue of mandates, making matters difficult for companies with national footprints to set consistent policies. Ten states have passed legislation to prohibit schools, businesses and state governments from mandating the vaccine, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Fourteen have passed legislation to prohibit vaccine passports or proof of vaccination in general. “If you aren’t going to help,” Biden said, addressing the governors of these states, “at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.”