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17 Dec, 2021 22:59

NYC vaccine-checker caught in her own trap

NYC vaccine-checker caught in her own trap

A New York City health inspector charged with checking restaurants’ compliance with the city’s vaccination mandate was denied entrance to a bar she was auditing after allegedly refusing to show her vaccination card.

Maggie Koronilian, the manager of Big Nose Kate’s Saloon and Eatery in Staten Island, told the New York Post on Friday that she had no choice but to send the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene employee on her way, as she was not compliant with the Covid-19 rules she was sent to enforce. 

Koronilian said that New York City health inspector Benedicta Opara showed up at the bar with her official identification on display on Tuesday, but when asked to show proof of vaccination required to enter bars, museums, music venues, theatres, or most other public space under the city’s vaccination mandate, Opara was not forthcoming.

While Koronilian repeatedly asked to see Opara’s vaccination card – “as we do for anyone who comes here,” the manager pointed out – Opara just said, “No. That’s what I’m here checking for,” explaining that she “wasn’t there to stay and eat.”

Koronilian told the Post that she asked Opara to step outside the bar so she could check the paperwork without flouting the rules she was sent to enforce. The city agent apparently was not happy with being shown the door, and reportedly referred to the ubiquitous vaccination notices on the bar’s door and windows as “this bulls***”

The story had a happy ending for Big Nose Kate’s, as the bar was found to be in compliance with the regulations, a spokesperson for the health department later confirmed to the Post.

Bars and restaurants in New York City are subject to thousands of dollars in fines if they are caught allowing unvaccinated patrons inside, and if Big Nose Kate’s had let Opara in, they could have been on the hook for a hefty fine – $1,000 for the first offense and up to $5,000 for the second. The steep penalties for disobeying the order have courted criticism from the industry professionals. Many bar and restaurant owners in New York City have complained the vaccination mandates have cut into their business, especially as the weather gets colder and the unvaccinated are unable to merely eat or drink outside.

The city’s vaccination mandate, initially imposed in August, has since been expanded to cover all private sector employees in addition to those working in the public sector. US President Joe Biden’s administration has been pushing to roll out a similar mandate nationwide.