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Some New Orleans restaurants now requiring proof of vaccine

Some restaurants will require proof of vaccination or a negative covid test in order to eat or drink inside.

NEW ORLEANS — At La Boca Steakhouse in the Warehouse District, there's a new rule come Tuesday: All guests must show proof of a COVID vaccine or a negative test for entry, in addition to wearing a mask.

It's the same deal across town at Cowbell on Oak Street and Effervescence on the edge of the Quarter.

It's all because of the growing number of COVID cases.

“We thought, ‘OK, it's accelerating. Let's do this thing where if you want to sit inside, great. Just show us your vax card, a picture of it, and, you know, you can come inside, you can take your mask off when you get inside. Otherwise, we have outside seating,’” said Brack May, owner of Cowbell on Oak Street.

May said the idea came after Tipitina's, the Maple Leaf and d.b.a. announced earlier this week that anyone who wants to attend a show must be vaccinated or negative for the virus -- and prove it.

“This is just our policy. It's not a political thing. It's a preventative thing,” he said. “We see it as a courtesy.”

He said policing customers and having staff wear masks is something he'd be happy to do away with -- if it was safe.

“Believe me, it's 130 degrees in the kitchen when it gets cranking," May said. "It's not fun.”

Crystal Coco Hinds, who owns Effervescence on North Rampart Street, said people who have not been vaccinated can sit outside on the patio, but only those who've taken the shot can sit inside -- a decision she says wasn't easy.

“It was weighing very heavily on me all week, and I couldn't really sleep well and finally I decided to follow my gut,” she said.

She's kept in place all existing health policies, such as social distancing, a mask mandate and hand sanitizer.

This newest rule was just the latest way to try to keep not only customers healthy, but her small staff of seven and their families.

As for the response?

“There's a few people who … have commented on Instagram, you know, negatively, but most people are applauding us and they're fine with it,” she said.

Both business owners say they look forward to the day they don't have to worry about this -- and they hope this measure is one way to make that happen.

“If they said, 'Hey, man. It's over. Let's party.' I mean, that's the happiest day for all of us here. I can tell you that,” May said.