NEW YORK — New York City’s vaccine mandate for restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues began on Tuesday, but one business owner in Brooklyn says she won’t turn away unvaccinated customers.
The sign on the front window of Rocco’s in Bay Ridge reads: “We do not discriminate against any customer based on sex, gender, race, creed, age — vaccinated or unvaccinated — all customers who wish to patronize are welcome in our establishment.”
However, if business owners do not comply with the city’s vaccine mandate, called the Key to NYC Pass, after Sept. 13, they could face fines up to $1,000 for a first offense. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would take an “escalator approach” with increasing, costly penalties for repeated offenses.
Mary Josephine Generoso, the manager of Rocco’s, said she and her husband are willing to take the risk.
“Once I heard the mayor come out and speak in the beginning of August stating that we were going to have to check vaccine status, I instantly thought that was so un-American. I could not understand how we were going to start discriminating against people who weren’t vaccinated,” she told PIX11 News on Tuesday. “I really feel like people should be able to enter an establishment if they choose to, whether they’re vaccinated or not.”
Generoso also said it’s none of her business why people don’t want to get vaccinated and she urged de Blasio to rethink the mandate.
When asked about Rocco’s during his COVID briefing Tuesday morning, the mayor pushed back against Generoso’s assertion that the mandate was discriminatory.
“It’s not discrimination. It’s about protecting people,” de Blasio said. He also noted the Key to NYC vaccine mandate does not apply to customers who quickly go into a business to purchase or pick-up takeout or to-go items.
De Blasio touted the mandate as the best way to avoid a return of pandemic-related restrictions, such as a mask mandate, amid a surge of new cases and hospitalizations related to the highly contagious delta variant.
“We do not want to go back to restrictions,” he said.
Over the next few weeks, the city will ramp up its outreach and public awareness campaigns related to the Key to NYC before enforcement begins in September. Part of that outreach includes more mobile, pop-up vaccination sites strategically positioned outside businesses that now require proof of vaccination to enter.
While some may not be on board with the mandate, other business owners applauded the city’s effort to get more people vaccinated.
Abla Atoubi, the general manager of Bhatti Indian Grill, pointed out that unvaccinated New Yorkers can still dine outdoors.
“It’s our restaurant, right, if you want to come dine at our house you have to abide by our rules. And nobody is forcing anybody to dine indoors; there’s still plenty of outdoor areas,” she said.