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'This Won't Be Forever': St. Louis Restaurateurs On Requiring Indoor Diners Be Vaccinated

Joy Ho_NPR_vaccine
Joy Ho

Some St. Louis restaurateurs are telling unvaccinated customers to stay outside — or stay home. Among the first was Steven Fitzpatrick Smith, owner of the Royale and co-owner of Tick Tock Tavern. As of July 24, his bars require proof of vaccination for customers seeking to dine indoors.

Lara Hamdan
St. Louis Public Radio
Ben Poremba (at left) and Jeremy Pevnick joined Monday's talk show in studio.

Jeremy Pevnick is a bartender at the Royale and Tick Tock Tavern. He is also the beverage director and manager of The Bao in Clayton. On July 30, The Bao also began requiring indoor diners to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination — either physically or digitally.

“We're taking your lives in our hands here to try and serve you. We want to take care of you, we want to give you delicious food, delicious drinks,” Pevnick said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “This is only for the time being, as the CDC recommends and the experts recommend. This won't be forever.”

'This Won't Be Forever': St. Louis Restaurateurs On Requiring Indoor Diners Be Vaccinated

Others, such as Ben Poremba, are not requiring proof of vaccination just yet but are asking diners about vaccination status. Poremba owns Bengelina Hospitality Group, which operates Nixta and Bar Limón, Elaia, Olio, La Patisserie Chouquette and the Benevolent King. All of the restaurants on that list are accepting indoor reservations only for individuals who profess to be vaccinated, though they are operating on an honor system. They are, however, making proof of vaccination a condition of employment.

Poremba said he hopes to see new laws that compel dining establishments to require patrons to show vaccination cards. In the meantime, he reiterated that his decision is not a political one.

“We're [already] mandating hepatitis A [vaccine] for our employees,” he said. “And so now we're going to make the mandate COVID-19 [vaccines]. We're banning smoking indoors, [so] we're just gonna ban people that are not vaccinated indoors. If we're gonna end up checking people's vaccination cards, we're also checking ID for minors. … This is not without precedent.”

Pevnick and Poremba joined host Sarah Fenske in the studio to discuss how things played out over the first weekend under the new policy. Both reiterate that non-vaccinated individuals are welcome to dine on their outdoor patios.

Smith also called in Monday’s program to detail how customers at his bars responded to the new policy.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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