How Seattle Area Businesses Deal With King County’s New “Show Evidence Of Vaccine Or COVID Test” Rule

A new King County rule that took effect Monday requires customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to dine in bars and restaurants, work out in gyms and enjoy venues. indoor entertainment such as theaters and museums in King County. The new rule also applies to conferences and conventions, and all large outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people – although children under 12, who are not yet eligible for a vaccine, are exempt.

So far, a day after starting to implement the rule, business owners have mixed feelings about the new requirement.

Many Seattle-area restaurant and bar owners were already demanding proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test for restaurant patrons. And some Seattle museum executives and business owners are happy with the new measure, which public health officials say could help slow the spread of the virus. But other Seattle businesses say they’ve already lost customers to the immunization requirement, and owners don’t want further regulation they say hurts small businesses, especially one. when they are already grappling with issues like labor shortages.

Leonard Garfield, executive director of the Seattle Museum of History and Industry, has been eagerly awaiting the vaccination requirement and the effect it will have on visitors to the museum.

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“We believe the net effect will be that our visitors and our community will feel more secure knowing that everyone around them in this place is fully immunized and ready to enjoy life knowing that they are in. good health and safety, ”he said.

Other museums, including the Burke Museum and the Wing Luke Museum, which won’t open until later this week, also expect all to go well for guests.

Jeff Brein, owner of Seattle-area film group Far Away Entertainment, is also optimistic – but cautiously – about the effects of the new regulations on his two Seattle theaters: the Varsity Theater in the University District and the Historic Admiral. Theater in the North. Admiral Quarter.

He said Far Away Entertainment had received emails in the past four or five months from customers saying they would not be returning to theaters unless there was a vaccination policy. He hopes that with proof of a vaccine requirement, theaters will be able to see an increase in the number of customers. If this is the case, Far Away Entertainment could consider bringing the warrant to theaters in other countries or doing vaccination sessions only.

Some business owners, however, are already seeing the negative consequences of this requirement.

Transform 180, a personal training-focused gym with locations in Belltown and South Lake Union, lost 15% of its membership in the days leading up to the start of the vaccine or testing requirement, according to its owner , Charith Madawela. He said his income had not returned to pre-pandemic levels and the loss of limbs was a big blow. Many of his former clients still don’t come to train even though they are vaccinated because they don’t want to train with a mask, he said.

Justin Young, owner of the two Flow Fitness sites in Seattle, said he believes it is unfair that the government continues to roll out new pandemic restrictions that hurt small businesses without helping them manage costs.

John and Jess Carrico, owners of NW Fitness Gym, say they lost several gym members and an employee ahead of King County's COVID-19 vaccine requirement.  (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Meanwhile, John Carrico, owner of the NW Fitness Gym in downtown Seattle with his wife Jess, said they also lost several gym members and an employee who did not want to be vaccinated due to the ‘requirement. He said about 250 of the gym’s 450 members have already sent in their immunization cards, but he’s frustrated with the amount of work it will take to track down the other 200 who might have missed his emails or are not willing to be vaccinated.

“We have unfortunately become accustomed to having to adapt to some form of regulation almost every three months over the past two years,” Carrico said. “This only increases the work of our already taxed team. ”

But he said they might have new members who are now comfortable working because of the vaccine requirement, which could help make up for the loss of limbs they have seen so far.

For Michelle Cozzaglio, co-owner and curator of the Oddities & Curiosities exhibit that will travel to the Washington State Convention Center on October 30, the new regulations have become a major hurdle – especially the requirement that unvaccinated participants show a coronavirus test. negative made within 72 hours of the event.

Cozzaglio, who is based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has heard from customers who bought their tickets weeks and months ago, who say the testing delays could cause them to miss the event.

“I have had to reimburse people, and we usually don’t have any reimbursements,” she said. On top of that, the exhibit – which brings together sellers of dark art, taxidermy, and other curio cabinet-type products – had to hire a staff department to make sure all attendees comply with the new. regulation.

Some Seattle restaurant owners see the requirement as another obstacle to profitability in an industry that has been particularly hard hit by past pandemic regulations and labor shortages. They are also concerned that this requirement will put additional pressure on staff.

“Many restaurants have struggled to hire workers during the pandemic, and adding staff at the front door to check on vaccine status created an additional challenge,” said Steve Hooper, group president. Ethan Stowell Seattle Restaurants. Stowell said in August he had to delay reopening some of his restaurants because he couldn’t find the staff to manage them.

Bart Evans, the owner of Bluwater Bistro in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood, is so supportive of vaccinations that he turns his dining room into a vaccination clinic on October 27, but even he has mixed feelings about the requirement for vaccinations. customers because he’s worried about how to impose it.

“Our staff are fully vaccinated,” Evans said. “It is right that we expect our customers to be.

He worries, however, about putting his staff in a position where they have to ban people from the restaurant. Its employees are used to welcoming people, not acting like bouncers.

“It’s not a role we like to play or are used to,” Evans said. “We are not a nightclub in Pioneer Square.

Seattle Times reporters Brendan Kiley and Crystal Paul both contributed to this story.

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