Danny Meyer, owner of the Union Square Hospitality Group, has announced that vaccine booster shots will become compulsory for employees and diners at each of their locations.
The group’s properties consist of eighteen upscale eateries, mostly scattered throughout Manhattan, including several Michelin-starred locations. The announcement came during a Wednesday appearance by Meyer on CNBC’s Squawk Box.
“At this point, the science has changed,” said Meyer. “What has been a little bit tougher has been watching this crushing wave of Omicron sweeping through New York City and certainly through the country.”
The state of New York officially requires all indoor diners to be at least partially vaccinated, with a new policy requiring at least two shots effective December 27th (notwithstanding those who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine). However, the city has not officially mandated booster shots for indoor dining.
Throughout the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, Meyer has made a point of signaling certain values concerning epidemiology. Last year, Meyer told reporters that he did not intend to reopen his restaurants until a CCP virus vaccine was widely available and criticized other restaurants for returning to business. During a podcast appearance with Vanity Fair, Meyer also criticized 2020’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), claiming that “it could be the most irresponsible thing in the world for a restaurant to actually apply for and get this PPP loan because you are on the hook … to pay back that loan.” When it subsequently emerged that Union Square Hospitality Group had received at least $11 million dollars in PPP loans, he referred to the program as “one of the few pieces of hope the restaurant industry has been provided in recent months,” without clarifying the apparent contradiction to his earlier remarks.
Meyer is also the founder of the fast-food chain Shake Shack, which has not yet announced any policy for booster requirements. Indeed, the Union Square Hospitality Group’s policy is one of the first of its kind to be announced in the United States and may serve as a bellwether for future booster mandates on a much larger scale. Until then, the Manhattan brunch crowd can dine in comfort, knowing that their culinary experience will be accessible only to those of their neighbors who have received the latest injections the pharmaceutical industry has to offer.