Carrboro pizzeria to require COVID-19 vaccine for indoor dining

Orange County News

CARRBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — A pizza restaurant in Carrboro has decided to start requiring guests show proof of vaccination if they want to eat indoors.

Starting Aug. 12, Pizzeria Mercato on West Weaver Street will start asking customers to show either a physical copy or a digital picture of their vaccination card to dine inside.

Restaurant owner and chef Gabe Barker said this decision comes as the delta variant is picking up speed and the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise.

“With the way COVID is trending currently, we believe it is a way to allow us to continue to operate inside dining,” Barker said.

Children under 12 can still eat inside as long as they are masked, unless seated at a table.

However, Barker said that if you are old enough to be vaccinated and haven’t been, he said you will not be able to eat inside, even if you have a religious or medical exemption.

“I’m not trying to ostracize anyone, I’m not trying to tell someone what they should or should not be doing with their own personal lives,” Barker said. “I’m solely trying to keep my people as safe as possible.”

Barker said it’s been a tough year and a half for his restaurant. He said his restaurant did only curbside takeout for over a year and his sales went down 70 percent during the height of the pandemic.

“Every single restaurant business in the entire country has been crippled by COVID,” Barker said. “We used to employ around 30 individuals in 2019, and I had to, unfortunately, furlough a majority of them.”

Now that they are back open for indoor dining and he’s fully staffed, Barker said they want to stay open. He said keeping his staff and customers safe is key, and that’s why he has decided to require customers who come inside be vaccinated.

“I know the vaccine is relatively new, we don’t understand much about it. I understand the arguments and that’s not what I’m here presenting,” Barker said. “I’m just saying, this is the best choice for me and for my team currently. They stand behind me in it, and that’s how we’re going to proceed.”

The Players Retreat restaurant on Oberlin Road in Raleigh is another restaurant in the Triangle that has been requiring customers who dine inside show proof of vaccination.

Owner Gus Gusler told CBS 17 over the phone on Friday they have had this policy in place since June and that their business has increased by 9 percent since then.

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