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Restaurants can offer vaccinated sections, no social distancing required

Posted at 11:38 PM, May 17, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Social distancing at restaurants will soon depend on whether or not customers are vaccinated.

Businesses have new New York State guidelines, following CDC recommendations for vaccinated people. Starting Wednesday, if restaurants require proof of vaccination, customers do not need to social distance. If a restaurant does not check for vaccination, then six feet of social distancing is still required, there are no other capacity limits the restaurant needs to follow.

Santora's Pub and Grill Owner Paul Santora said it plans to have vaccinated sections, where tables are allowed to be next to each other.

The rest of the restaurant will be socially distanced, under state guidelines the restaurant does not have to ask those diners for proof of vaccination.

He said vaccination requirements aside, he believes having both sections is the best choice for his business.

“We’re under the understanding that even people that are vaccinated still have a little bit of a fear, they still don’t want to be in large crowds," Santora said.

He estimates the new guidance will increase capacity by 20-40%.

The state said paper or digital proof of vaccination is required to do away with social distancing.

“We know we’re gonna have difficulty regulating it," Santora said. "We know that we’re gonna have push back from our guests, and from people who refuse to give that information and they’re gonna demand that it’s their privacy.”

New York State Restaurant Association President/CEO Melissa Fleischut said restaurant size, clientele, and whether employees are at the door to check vaccination status are considerations for restaurants.

“This would be very big if they go completely vaccinated, and then can lift all the restrictions completely, and can get rid of the social distancing, and then it would feel like a restaurant from 2019 or a bar from 2019 again.”

Fleischut said she heard from a few downstate restaurants that were considering a fully vaccinated model.

Santora said the size of the vaccinated section will be based on demand.

“I think it's going to be on a case by case basis of who walks in the door because we can divide those sections up and skip a booth at anytime,” Santora said.

For information on mask requirements in businesses click here.