Wednesday marked the beginning of a new era in New York City: it was the first day fully vaccinated people were allowed into certain indoor spaces without wearing a mask. However, private businesses are still allowed to require masks, so I checked out a few spots around Bushwick to see how the new rules were playing out.
I couldn’t find a single store, restaurant or bar that has dropped the mask requirement. In fact, one owner of a restaurant hadn’t even heard about the new rules, which include allowing most businesses to return to 100 percent capacity.
There seem to be two main reasons businesses have not yet adopted the new mask guidance: the logistical costs of checking vaccination status and a lack of clarity around the new rules.
“It takes a lot of time and manpower to enforce [the mask ban],” said Cat Varga, owner of Brooklyn Vintage Company. “You basically need a bouncer. Someone to stand at the door and have everyone show their vaccination card.”
Varga also mentioned that the new rules seemed unfair to employees as well as other customers, who might not be vaccinated.
Kendall Gough, bartender and server at Mominette, also cited logistical issues with adopting the new guidance.
“There’s no way as a busy Bushwick restaurant we can get everyone who’s walking in at a dinner rush to prove they’ve been vaccinated,” said Gough. “If you walk in with a mask, we can seat you right away. So it would take an easier method to let people prove they’ve been vaccinated.”
Others I spoke with pointed to a lack of clarity around how the rules were changing and why now.
“It just feels like a 180,” said Seong Joon, manager at Sunrise/Sunset. “As seemingly exciting as it is, I feel hesitant to so quickly get rid of our precautions.”
As for when these spots will drop the mask requirement, the attitude seems to be to wait and see.
“It feels like we’re in this area of uncertainty still,” said Gough. “Yes the CDC dropped the ban, but it feels wrong. It feels a little bit too soon.”
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