SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Bayou, a popular bar and restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City will require customers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when it reopens on May 12.
Customers must also be two weeks beyond their second vaccination dose.
The announcement produced a flurry of angry calls on Friday. Owner Mark Alson said he made the decision based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The CDC states that people are safe and considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second vaccination,” he said.
“I cannot in good conscience run a business where I feel like I’m putting our customers, our staff, and ourselves at risk.”
KSL obtained several angry messages left at the Bayou. They included extremely vulgar language and callers berating Alston for his decision. In some of the messages, callers argued that the requirement violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws as well as the U.S. Constitution.
Alston said the business had to set up new phone lines to deal with the volume of calls and still be able to handle to-go orders.
A message on the restaurant’s answering system also alludes to the issue.
“If you’re calling to place a to-go order please note that we are currently undergoing a high call volume from people wanting to discuss how they’d handle a public health crisis,” it says.
Positive and negative messages left at Bayou
Alston said many customers have been supportive. He said he’s also had civil conversations with those calling to complain.
But, he says nasty calls have also come his way.
“I’ve had a lot of people just call me a homosexual, which I wasn’t sure how that played into requiring vaccines. Or calling me Hitler and stuff like that.”
Alston said the decision to require full COVID-19 vaccination is also a personal one. A friend of his died from the virus and Alston called his death “preventable.”
Ultimately, he said, he just wants people to respect the decision.
“Everyone wants their freedom for themselves to make some medical choices, and this is a building we live in seven days a week and we need the freedom to be able to protect our own health in the way we choose.”