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Seattle chef says King County's vaccination requirement is only way out of pandemic

Diners must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to eat indoors at King County restaurants come October. Café Lago's staff says it's about time.

SEATTLE — A new King County regulation will require proof of full vaccination to enter most restaurants and bars, indoor recreational venues regardless of size, and outdoor events with 500 people or more.

While some restaurants will need the next five weeks to adjust, Café Lago is ahead of the curve.

“We started requiring proof of vaccination the weekend of August 6,” said Lucas Neve, who works as a chef for the Italian restaurant.

Neve says the move has been embraced by his customers.

“Ninety-nine percent of the feedback has been positive, including some people who’ve said that they’re more likely to come here because they feel like it’s a safer place to dine,” Neve said.

New research from the county shows that this new protocol has a real effect in saving lives. A study from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows the requirement could prevent as many as 75,900 COVID-19 infections, 1,700 hospitalizations and 257 deaths over the next six months. 

But now that vaccine verification is mandated on the county level, Neve admits that it may be challenging for some restaurants to enforce this new rule.

“That’s a tough ask for small businesses like ours because we don’t have bouncers,” Neve explained. “We have a host, and he or she has a lot of other work to do, so they can’t necessarily be punching four cards at a table of four.”

But Neve also says that mandates like this are necessary to move forward, and any temporary discomfort is outweighed by the greater good for the community.

“I kind of think this is the only way out and I think this should be extended to other venues where people are in close contact,” Neve said. “Otherwise, this will be the new normal where we’ll be wearing masks to talk to each other, and we’ll have to show our proof everywhere that we go, and I think it’s the only way to get past it.”

The new mandate goes into effect Oct. 25, but the restaurants with a seating capacity of 12 or under will have the deadline extended to Dec. 6.