Separate dining in NYC: Vaccinated customers are enjoying life back to normal, non-vaxxed should keep their distance

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Some bars and restaurants in New York City have begun segregating diners, creating separate seating areas where vaccinated customers can mingle while unvaccinated customers must remain outside or behind plexiglass.

It came after bars were given the go-ahead from New York State last month to operate at 100% capacity and stay open until 4am.

But while state law now says vaccinated parties in bars and restaurants aren’t required to have social distancing, bars must allow two feet or appropriate physical barriers for unvaccinated customers.

It means bars are under pressure to demand a vaccination certificate to maximize the number of people who can fit inside.

And while the new policies may sound good in theory, they don’t make much sense from a legal and, in some cases, a health standpoint.

State laws don’t require proof of vaccination at “indoor catered events of 250 or less,” meaning customers can simply claim they’ve been vaccinated to get better seats.

And even if restaurants and bars could enforce policies based on who is and who isn’t vaccinated, health experts say being indoors, segregated or not poses the same risk of infection, especially for the unvaccinated crowd.

The policy seems to be taking different forms in different bars, with some reserving their indoor seating exclusively for the vaccinated in an effort to once again take full advantage of their indoor space.

Llama San in Manhattan’s West Village, for example, asks that in order for the dining room to sit close to covered capacity, diners be asked to provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.

“We believe this will give you and your guests peace of mind so that they can fully enjoy your dining experience with us,” the restaurant says in a statement. Resy. ‘All our employees have also been vaccinated or will regularly take negative covid tests.’

West Village Japanese Peruvian restaurant Llama San announced it completely relaxed social distancing restrictions in its indoor dining area on May 19, but with the caveat that customers show proof of vaccination.  It's part of a trend of NYC restaurants trying to create separate spaces for vaccinated and unvaccinated customers.  Dinners can be seen in the restaurant on May 21

West Village Japanese Peruvian restaurant Llama San announced it completely relaxed social distancing restrictions in its indoor dining area on May 19, but with the caveat that customers show proof of vaccination. It’s part of a trend of NYC restaurants trying to create separate spaces for vaccinated and unvaccinated customers. Dinners can be seen in the restaurant on May 21

The restaurant's outdoor area is still available for non-vaccinated customers

The restaurant’s outdoor area is still available for non-vaccinated customers

Others follow suit, with Jolene, also in the West Village, asking for an Excelsior Pass or vaccination card to secure an indoor reservation, and mentioning it on his Resy that the staff are vaccinated and work without masks.

For the unvaccinated, the site’s outdoor reservations are still available.

Brooklyn diner is doing the same, with its indoor space reserved exclusively for the vaccinated, while the unvaccinated can still dine outside, according to the Resy page.

Marie’s Crisis Cafe, a Broadway show tunes ‘Sing-along’ piano bar in the West Village says it has opened its space to vaccinated customers so that both customers and employees can safely remove their masks.

Jolene, also in the West Village, is following a similar setup, asking indoor customers for proof of vaccination

Jolene, also in the West Village, is following a similar setup, asking indoor customers for proof of vaccination

Venues ask for a variety of proofs, including digital and physical, but state law prohibits them from needing it for entry

Venues ask for a variety of proofs, including digital and physical, but state law prohibits them from needing it for entry

Brooklyn diner has also reserved its indoor dining room for the vaccinated

Brooklyn diner has also reserved its indoor dining room for the vaccinated

Other locations are opting for a different route, creating separate seating areas with relaxed social distancing and mask restrictions for vaccinees, while unvaccinated customers still have to deal with masks and Plexiglas barriers.

Carroll Place, an Italian-American wine bar in the West Village, plans to do just that starting Wednesday by reserving the ground floor for vaccinated guests.

“I started thinking: when everything reopens, people want a sense of normalcy,” restaurateur AJ Bontempo told the newspaper. New York Post.

“When you first come in, I want there to be an energy, without all that Plexiglas, and to reward people for getting vaccinated — to give them that experience.”

Carroll Place opts for separate interior spaces for vaccinated and non-vaccinated

Carroll Place opts for separate interior spaces for vaccinated and non-vaccinated

Most of the first floor of the Italian-American eatery is reserved for the unvaccinated, while the unvaccinated must remain upstairs in social distancing seats

Most of the first floor of the Italian-American eatery is reserved for the unvaccinated, while the unvaccinated must remain upstairs in social distancing seats

An example of a New York Excelsior Pass digital vaccine passport.  While a number of locations require a vaccination certificate, only places with a capacity of 250 people or more may require it for entry

An example of a New York Excelsior Pass digital vaccine passport. While a number of locations require a vaccination certificate, only places with a capacity of 250 people or more may require it for entry

Ninety-nine seats on the first floor will be reserved for the vaccinated, with 50 seats upstairs reserved with remote tables and barriers for the unvaccinated.

“It’s based on an honor system,” Bontempo told the outlet, noting the state regulations.

But with the segregated indoor spaces at least, health experts say it makes little sense to have limitations for some and not others.

Epidemiologist Stephanie Silvera said unvaccinated people, regardless of barriers and social distancing, are still prone to contracting Covid-19 in tight spaces, the Post reported, and she recommended keeping their masks indoors when not eating.

While outdoor dining will remain possible, most social distancing restrictions in New York will end once 70% of the adult population has been vaccinated

While outdoor dining will remain possible, most social distancing restrictions in New York will end once 70% of the adult population has been vaccinated

Other venues, such as Caroline’s comedy club in Times Square, follow a similar trail as Carroll Place.

Owner Caroline Hirsch says to ask for an Excelsior pass first. “If they don’t have one, we ask for their vaccination card, and if they don’t, we go by the honor system,” she told the Post.

The vaccinated, she said, are given the seats closest to the performer.

In the future, Hirsch said she would like to have shows exclusively for vaccinated customers, with relaxed restrictions throughout the venue.

The segregation measures for most bars may be just an emergency measure for many restaurants to get around state regulations.

Governor Cuomo announced this week that most of the state’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted once 70% of New Yorkers age 18 or older have received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccination.

So far, nearly 69 percent of New Yorkers over the age of 18 have received at least one injection, according to state figures.

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