NEW YORK – Restaurants and bars, at least the ones that have reopened, are packed here. If there ever was a policy to keep tables and patrons six feet apart it has been dispensed with. In bistros and brasseries like Balthazar and deli cafes like Katz’s, people are seated elbow to elbow.
One new policy put into place by governor decree has made this possible: To enter a restaurant, bar or even a Broadway theater, customers must present proof of vaccination along with a photo I.D. to match the name on the health card. It’s seamless and it adds a layer of protection to the customers and the staff (who for the most part keep masks on at all times) and gives a sense of safety and security.
This doesn’t mean that unvaccinated people can’t dine out, but they must do it in the literal sense – at a sidewalk table or in one of the dining huts that have been set up by the restaurants.
It was annoying at first, fumbling through topcoat pockets for a drivers license and the vaccine card – which can be a photo facsimile on your smartphone. But it soon became second nature and I found myself having the documents ready before I even opened a restaurant’s door.
I have seen different levels of verification. It’s usually someone at the host stand who says, “I’ll just need to see your proof of vaccination card and an I.D.,” even before asking if you have a reservation. In some places someone sits at the door like a bouncer – the manager at Un, Deux, Trois, a bistro next to the Bellagio theater, told me he sometimes felt like a bouncer. Some of the checkers do a quick glance; others insist the photo facsimile of the card be zoomed in to check the names and numbers. At one bar, the man at the door used a scanner to ensure my Florida drivers license was legit.
Theaters have the same policy with the added layer of requiring audience members to keep masks on throughout the performance. If you have tickets to a show, give yourself enough time to queue up just to get inside. Imagine the lines at the 5,000-seat Radio City Music Hall.
One of the more remarkable things I’ve seen in the eight days I’ve been here is in the subways, where masks are required. In the dozens of rides I’ve taken this trip, I’ve seen maybe six people not wearing a mask. They stand out.
But for the most part there is near universal...I don’t want to use the word compliance because that suggests a mindless subservience or sheepish submission. That’s not what it feels like.
There is near universal participation. Community involvement in a process that allows them to live and work with a feeling of safety and a hope that such measures will help suppress and then end the pandemic.