Aug 5, 2021 - COVID
Denver businesses implement patchwork of vaccine policies
Illustration of a rope barrier with a vaccination card hanging from the rope section.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With New York City now requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining, gyms and movie theaters, Denver businesses are increasingly weighing the pros and cons of whether to follow suit or stay the course.

Why it matters: As the pandemic persists, the onus to keep people safe indoors continues to fall on the backs of business owners who are growing increasingly weary.

  • Absent a substantial shift in behavior from consumers or the implementation of wide-sweeping government mandates, businesses remain responsible for playing COVID police — and it's leading to a patchwork of policies from one place to the next.
  • Yet, no matter how strict or lenient their rules, the risk of angering customers remains high either way.

What's happening: Local businesses are beginning to take matters into their own hands.

  • Bar Max off Colfax Avenue recently resumed its proof of vaccination policy for indoor diners.
  • To the Wind, also on Colfax, instituted a vaccine requirement on Wednesdays only, the Colorado Restaurant Association tells Axios.
  • A burlesque show at the Oriental Theatre this Saturday will require all ticket holders, staff and cast members to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours before entering.
  • Various policies are rolling out elsewhere in Colorado — including in Boulder, where a handful of businesses are implementing their own vaccine-proof mandates, the Daily Camera reports.

What they're saying: The "restaurant workforce is exhausted," and the idea of adding a proof of vaccination mandate without government support is a "daunting one that will come with a lot of operational and worker challenges," Katie Lazor, executive director of EatDenver, tells Axios.

  • "Restaurants are waiting for the city to do something like NYC has done," says long-time Denver restaurant consultant John Imbergamo. "It's tough to make our staff the COVID cops without government mandates in effect."

Of note: A preliminary survey of local independent restaurants conducted by EatDenver this week shows that business owners will largely support a vaccine mandate for customers "to get through this phase of the pandemic" — but only if the government calls for it, Lazor tells Axios.

Yes, but: The Hancock administration isn't considering vaccine mandates for indoor leisure activities "at this time." However, it supports businesses that enact them, spokesperson Mike Strott tells Axios.

  • For now, the farthest the administration is willing to go is its vaccine requirement for city employees and certain private-sector workers in "high-risk settings."

The big picture: Vaccine requirements and mask mandates are reemerging nationwide, as cases of the Delta variant continue to rise.

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