‘Mask up or provide documentation’: Several Richmond restaurants to ask for proof of vaccination

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– Several Richmond restaurants will now require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test if customers do not wear a mask.

A handful of restaurant owners have made the decision over the weekend to once again require masks for both employees and customers. If customers do not follow the mandatory mask policy, they will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours before dine-in.

According to its website, LX Group is a lifestyle company that anchors high-profile hotels, restaurants, salons and events in the Virginia and DC Market. The group owns and operates several restaurants in the Richmond area. Sonora Cantina and Rooftop, Switch Pop-up bar, Nama, Kabana Rooftop and Belle have implemented the policy.

Last week, the Virginia Department of Health recommended people to where masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who are vaccinated can still carry and spread the virus to those who are unvaccinated.

Neal Patel is the owner of Sonora Cantina and Rooftop and also is an owner of LX group. Patel told 8News, he has been monitoring and tracking the changes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as the restaurant industry has been feeling the impacts.

“Our goal is to hope that this doesn’t go backwards because we just don’t want to go back to that place,” Patel said. “With this new variant, we don’t know what to expect.”

According to Dr. Danny Avula, who is Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, the Delta variant is surging for the country, state and within the city of Richmond. Avula said the variant is 4-6 times more contagious than previous strains.

Nationwide, positive cases have increased by 40 percent over the last week. Hospitalizations and deaths have increased by 25 percent over the last week. Avula said there are similar movements at the state level. Virginia is recording 800-900 cases a day on average. This is a significant increase. According to Avula, more than 97 percent of severe cases are among those who are unvaccinated.

Amy Popovich is the Nurse Manager for the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts. Popovich said, over the last month, the city’s percent positivity rate has steadily increased.

“Both Richmond City and Henrico are experiencing substantial community transmission,” Popovich said.

According to Patel, managers have been notified of customers who have visited their restaurants, testing positive for COVID-19. There has been an increase in cases among customers. Customers have been calling in to notify them. Also, Patel has seen a decrease in business over the weekend.

“It’s concerning. I don’t know that it was specifically due to that but part of me feels that it could be,” Patel said. “I think it’s kind of on us to also start putting these measures in place to make customers and guests feel comfortable coming back.”

People will not be asked to provide documentation at the restaurants if they follow the mask mandate.

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