Rochester businesses concerned about vaccination requirements for customers: ‘Fuel to the fire’


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Business owners say some people are confused after the CDC’s announcement of its new mask guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals.

Under the new guidance, fully vaccinated Americans would no longer need to wear masks in most circumstances. However, New York still has it’s statewide mask mandate in place. This means masks are still required at indoor public spaces. 

“What people are not realizing is New York State still has the mask mandate and we have people now walking in here, harassing us on why they have to wear masks,” said Ross Mueller, the Owner of Mueller Restaurant Group: Label 7 and Native.

If New York decides to follow the CDC’s new guidelines and allow fully vaccinated individuals to not weak masks, there are questions about how people would know if someone was vaccinated. 

It’s a topic that has many businesses a little concerned. It was tough already for many to require masks, but now there is talk of vaccinations. 

“We’ve all seen the stories in the news with business owners and their employees being assaulted and even shot, and that’s scares us. So we don’t really want to put ourselves in a position to police our customers for proof of vaccination,” said Karin Williams, the President and Owner of Lakeside Haven Diner. 

Williams says her restaurant fully supports the fight against COVID-19, but she also believes the safety of her staff is a priority. 

“For us to police our customers for a proof of vaccination, in my opinion, it’s inviting chaos. People are really, really not in agreement about everything right now. I think it might be adding fuel to the fire,” Williams said. 

With staffing shortages, many owners say it would be hard to find the resources to also check people for vaccinations. 

“I don’t even have the staff to serve tables, who am I going to hire that sits at the door and checks these cards?” Mueller asked. “We’re going to have to change all our online emails and notifications saying, ‘ok if you do have a reservation bring your vaccination card too.’”

There are resources for businesses, like the Excelsior App, that shows if individuals have gotten the vaccine. 

The Little Theatre is exploring that option for customers. 

“Before we opened, we did a survey with people just to get an idea of people when they came back, where their mindset was, and we had 700 people respond and I think 690 of them said they planned to get vaccinated or already had been vaccinated,” said Scott Pukos, the Public Relations Coordinator at the Little Theatre. 

Other businesses say the app would be too much to monitor. 

“I don’t see that coming in the near future. I just think that’s a little too difficult with a lot of traffic, with a lot of people coming in and out, you know it would be very cumbersome to try to manage all that,” said John Gonzalez, a Manager at Hegedorns Market. “I think there will have to be some other compromise with how we deal with it.”

Many businesses say regardless of what the state decides, they plan to keep masking in place, at least for a little while. 

“We have no plan at this point in time of getting rid of the mask mandate,” Williams said. “I think at this point in time it just continues to encourage the safety our everybody involved.” 

The Little Theatre says they tend to lean more towards safety. “

“I think we would still require masks until we know for certain that we wouldn’t need that anymore,” Pukos said. “The main reason is we just want to make sure everyone who comes here, staff and guests, are safe.”

Some think requiring masks is easier than requiring proof of vaccinations. 

“You have to wear a mask for 20 feet, from the front door to your table. It’s really not that bad. Vaccinated or not, it’s really not that bad,” Mueller said. “The way I look at it is there’s people dying all over the world for much worse issues, if you have to wear a mask for 20 feet to come do some fine dining, I’m not too worried about it.” 

Businesses are asking for patience from customers as they navigate what comes next. 

“We’re getting there. We’re trying to digest all this new information and it comes very quickly out of the blue so you don’t have a lot of time to process it and figure out what we’re supposed to be doing,” Gonzalez said. 

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza have called on Governor Cuomo to adjust the state’s mask mandate to reflect the CDC’s new guidelines. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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