Column – Get the shot or drink alone

Published 9:55 pm Monday, August 2, 2021

In order to protect their employees and keep their doors open, businesses across the country are beginning to take actions that keep the unvaccinated on the outside looking in.

Tired and frustrated with unvaccinated patrons coming into their businesses and getting their employees sick, a group of San Francisco bar owners recently banded together to require customers to show their COVID-19 vaccination cards before coming in to have a drink.

Faced with the nation-wide labor shortage of hospitality employees, the bars were getting double whammied by vaccinated employees testing positive for COVID-19 and having to stay away from work for 10 days even though most showed little or no signs of the sickness. By banning together to unilaterally lock out the unvaccinated, the bars actually accomplished two tasks.

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They protected their employees while also creating an environment where vaccinated people felt safe to come and have a good time without worrying an unvaccinated person could be spreading the virus in their midst.

Instead of seeing backlash from militant antivaxxers stating their rights to get COVID and die if they want, the bars received an outpouring of support from customers.

San Francisco bars are not the only places blocking the doors to the unvaccinated. If you want to see a play on Broadway, you are going to need a ticket and your vaccine card. Restaurants in Boston, San Francisco and Seattle are also requiring diners to be vaccinated before entering.

Since government mandates have proven problematic, and the basic human desire to do the right thing and get vaccinated has not happened, capitalism itself is stepping in to solve this problem. And yes, it is legal for a business to restrict its customers in ways that do not discriminate by gender, race or sexual orientation.

What I have not seen is any businesses in small towns like Farmville taking these steps, probably because the economics are completely different.

San Francisco has a population of almost 884,000 people with 70% of its population vaccinated. Even without the 30% of unvaccinated folks, the bars still have a customer base of more than 600,000 people.

The numbers in Farmville are much different. With a population of 23,000 in Prince Edward County and a vaccination rate of just 35%, that leaves a customer base of just 8,000. For an area restaurant to cut its potential customer base by two thirds would be a bold move, but it would create a safe space for the vaccinated which could gain customers if marketed correctly. Plus, with 7,000 mostly vaccinated college students arriving in town in the coming days, this may be the right time to make the move.

While it’s encouraging to see the daily vaccination totals rising nationwide and the 70% milestone of people with at least one dose being met Monday, we can’t let a quarter of the U.S. population shut down the economy again.

Restaurants and bars need to shut the unvaccinated out. Tell them to get a shot or drink alone.

ROGER WATSON is editor for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is