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New York City Restaurants Are Back on the Vaccine Culture War’s Front Lines

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new mandate means hostesses, waiters, and bartenders will need to play bouncer to the unvaccinated.

The Musket Room in New York.

The Musket Room in New York.

Photographer: Emily Andrews

Jennifer Vitagliano has been in perpetual pivot mode for over a year now. Since the start of the pandemic, the owner of the Michelin-starred Musket Room in Manhattan’s SoHo has hatched a delivery menu and a brunch menu to lure new customers and borrowed a 1962 van from a friend to sell doughnuts and cocktails in front of her eight-year-old restaurant, which is known for its inventive spin on new American dishes. Of all the flexes she’s made, playing bouncer has been the most exhausting.

In early June, after several Covid-19 cases hit the industry, Vitagliano and her business partners decided that Musket Room customers who wanted to dine indoors needed to be vaccinated. When a group of five guests arrived for dinner one evening, two covertly passed a phone between them, trying to prove that they were vaccinated by using the same Excelsior Pass, an electronic vaccination record created by New York state. Vitagliano, doubling as the vaccine card checker, caught the pair and stopped them from entering.