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Where Y’Eat: A Vaccine Mandate Brings Stress, But the Answer is On Our Plate

mcnulty vaccine sign.png
Ian McNulty
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A sign at a New Orleans restaurant advises guests on the city's vaccination mandate for indoor service.

It’s been a matter of days since the New Orleans vaccination mandate took effect, but in some parts of the local hospitality community, they’ve felt like very long days.

For many working in restaurants and bars and other places under the city’s mandate, each interaction starts with a question mark. Will the next person walking in readily show their vaccination card or angrily deride them for asking?

The mandate requires proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result for indoor service at a range of business types. It is new for both customers told to comply and businesses now pressed into an enforcement role, under threat of being shutdown if they don’t.

What’s not new is the response – a mix of confusion and gratitude, rage and relief. We’ve ordered off this menu before, through the first mask mandate, through limits and contact tracing.

Through the pandemic, places where people convene have been under the tightest rules and the most scrutiny. They have become fault lines for a public response that is too often divisive - fueled by social media nonsense, political pandering and the aggravated fatigue we are all dragging along with us now.

But there is a different way, and it’s as easy as your next lunch break, happy hour or date night. It starts simply by remembering that we’re able to go out for that lunch break, happy hour or date night because of the people who are keeping their doors open and their jobs somewhat intact through this crisis.

The truth is, you see this in action all the time. It’s called cooperation and consideration, and it’s part of the everyday recipe for having a nice time when we go out. I’ve said it before, but as hot as this summer has been I wager a reminder is in order: when we seek hospitality, let’s remember to bring some of our own to the table too.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.