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Cities Are Turning Restaurants Into the Vaccine Police

September 27, 2021

Vaccine passport mandates are forcing restaurants to become a quasi-vaccine police force in order to stay in business.

Stratis Morfogen is a third-generation restaurant entrepreneur who, for the first time in his career, is having to wear the hat of the vaccine mandate police if he wants to stay in business. 

This summer, New York City, and now Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New Orleans demand everyone to show proof of the COVID-19 vaccine to enter a restaurant, concert hall, museum or any public venue.  Morfogen, who owns dozens of restaurants, including Brooklyn Dumpling, Phillipe Chow, and Brooklyn Chop House describes, what an ordeal this has been. 

The city provides no database, so restaurant owners have to use their own judgement in determining fake or real “vaccine certificates,” and woe to an owner who gets it wrong.  Morfogen has been threatened by a health care inspector with having his liquor license pulled for failing to do a better job of enforcement.  Morfogen also describes the dilemmas he faces when turning away customers who can’t get the vaccine, like one woman undergoing cancer treatment or another who had a positive COVID-19 antibody test and brought in proof.

Morfogen is not against the vaccine, in fact, he received one and so have his children.  He is not against the vaccine even though his 83-year-old mother died this summer from Guillian Barre Syndrome after receive her second vaccine dose (the hospital refused to believe at first that the vaccine had anything to do with the woman’s sudden symptoms and quick deterioration). 

Additionally, the NYC mandate has sent a chill among his customer base:  black Americans.  Polls show black Americans are highly skeptical of the vaccine and have one of the lowest compliance rates among demographic groups.  Morfogen says 80 percent of his clientele are black and the mandate has personally impacted his business.  In a city where “stop and frisk” was ended by Mayor DeBlasio, Morfogen says he is puzzled why the city forces black Americans to get receive a medical product they don’t trust.

Morfogen also discusses why he stays in New York City, despite the vaccine mandates, the COVID-19 lockdowns, the mask mandates, and rising crime due to lack of police support and declining economic activity.  He feels positive about the future but has reservations about the road ahead.

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AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform. @HCPolicy