Restaurant owners and managers say much of their staff is vaccinated
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct which restaurants Tim Applegate owns.
Restaurant owners and managers are working to help their employees get vaccinated.
Restaurant workers make up a large portion of the labor pool in Summit County with over 2,000 annual job openings in the industry, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Summit County profile. While some jobs in the county were able to be done remotely when COVID-19 arrived last March, restaurant employees had to remain working in person.
Now, they’re being prioritized for vaccination. A special pod was set up last month in partnership with the state specifically for restaurant workers, and restaurant owners and managers are working to get as many of their employees vaccinated as possible following a year of steady coronavirus quarantines.
Roy Beinfest, assistant general manager of sister restaurants Silverheels Bar & Grill and Kemosabe Sushi, said March 21 that he received an email from the county March 19 — the day appointments opened up to essential frontline workers — notifying him that restaurant workers were eligible for the vaccine and providing information about how he and his employees could get vaccinated.
Beinfest said he signed up that day and went to tell everyone working that they could schedule an appointment. He said about 10 employees came into his office to use the computer and sign up within three days, but he added that he’s not mandating that employees get vaccinated.
Tim Applegate, who owns several restaurants around the county — including Sauce on the Blue, Sauce on the Maggie and Quandary Grille — said his restaurants employ around 130 people around the county. In the little more than two weeks since the vaccinations were opened to restaurant workers, Applegate said almost everyone in his restaurants who wanted to get vaccinated has been able to do so.
Applegate said he went with several of his employees to the special vaccination pod for restaurant workers last month. The site provided the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so employees won’t have to go back for a second shot.
“There’s still some hesitation from certain employees that don’t want to get it, but everyone that wanted it that works for me was able to get it,” Applegate said. “Everybody that didn’t want it, most people are waiting another week or two.”
Applegate added that while he’s encouraging his staff to get vaccinated, it isn’t mandatory and getting vaccinated is each employee’s choice. Though, adjusting schedules to accommodate employees who experienced side effects from the vaccine was a bit of an issue, Applegate said. He said he had between six and 12 employees who couldn’t come to work the next day or two due to side effects.
“We’re just moving forward, just keeping going so hopefully things pick up here,” Applegate said. “And I think in the next month we’ll find ourselves in a different spot than we are now.”
Pure Kitchen general manager Niall Jensen said the restaurant is working to get as many of its employees vaccinated as possible. He said the process has been efficient, and the county has been helpful in communicating when employees can get vaccinated. Jensen said the county provided signage for the restaurant with information in English and Spanish on how people can register for a vaccination appointment.
“I think we’ve got a good percentage, maybe 50% so far (have been vaccinated),” Jensen said, adding that there’s a mix of people who are fully vaccinated and waiting on their second dose.
Jensen said ideally, employees would have been staggered to receive vaccinations in case a lot of people experienced side effects and had to call out of work. He said that many of his employees received the Johnson & Johnson dose at the restaurant-worker vaccination clinic.
“Even if everyone who got that single shot couldn’t have come in (to work the next day), I think closing for one day is more beneficial in getting people vaccinated than trying to put it off,” Jensen said. “So I think we just bit the bullet and just did it when we could, and we only had one or two people who had to not come in or go home.”
Despite most employees getting vaccinated, Jensen said Pure Kitchen is using the same COVID-19 protocols that have been in place for months — such as quarantining sick or exposed employees and wearing masks at work — until further guidance is given from Summit County Public Health. He added that he has a few employees who are hesitant to get vaccinated, but most are not refusing entirely and saying they want to wait to make a decision.
“I can’t force them to do it,” Jensen said. “So I think we’ll have enough people get it that it will be fine, but we’re trying to convince them with science and just, ‘I got it, we’re all fine.’”
Jensen echoed Applegate’s sentiments, saying employees are not required to get vaccinated, but he’ll continue to educate employees as best he can on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
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