A Manhattan restaurant window with two paper signs: one explaining masks are required for unvaccinated patrons, and the other advertising 'help wanted.'
Photo: Allison Hess/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last week, Mayor de Blasio announced that New York will require proof of vaccination for anyone going into restaurants and gyms or attending indoor performances, an effort to squash rising case numbers — and incentivize New Yorkers to get vaxxed.

The mandate — which requires would-be patrons to show their paper vaccine card, the state’s Excelsior Pass, or the city’s NYC Covid Safe app proving that they’ve had at least one dose — first takes effect on August 16, also known as this Monday. On that day, all restaurants are supposed to start checking vaccine status, although the full enforcement of the policy won’t actually start until September 13. The month in between, the New York Times explains, is supposed to be a kind of “grace period” for establishments to “figure out how to follow the new mandate.”

But so far, the city hasn’t released much in the way of details. For example: How the policy will be enforced? What are the penalties if a restaurant doesn’t check vaccine status? And who’s responsible for the checking? The city hasn’t said. When I contacted the mayor’s office to ask them these questions, a spokesperson said only that there will be more information in “the coming days and weeks.”

Even before the mandate, a growing number of restaurants were individually requiring all would-be patrons be vaxxed, an admirable but piecemeal system that left employees to deal with disgruntled customers. The mandate won’t change that part, but at least in theory, it should give workers some backup. “The fact that it’s not just me saying that, it’s a whole body government, gives me some support,” one East Village bartender told Grub Street when the news was announced last week.

The mandate, though, only makes an impact if restaurants have to actually follow it. Given that it’s an effort to curb the spread of a virus that has rendered normal life mostly unlivable, one might think that it would be easy to convince people to follow through on their own. As we have seen, however, we cannot make such assumptions.