Hoboken: Last-Minute COVID Vaccine Mandate for SantaCon Charity Pub Crawl

Source: North Jersey.com

Less than two full days before the return of the SantaCon pub crawl, Hoboken issued an executive order Thursday requiring all participating bars to check the vaccination status of their patrons.

The policy may be a relief to anyone concerned the event could prove to be a superspreader event, as COVID-19 cases continue to climb, but it leaves bar staff scrambling to coordinate compliance ahead of the massive event.

“I think it’s crazy to give people two days to figure out how to organize this, because it’s already a lot to organize,” said Gail Ellisse, a manager at Willie McBrides, an Irish pub set to host part of the event.

But city officials saw a much more pressing issue looming with positive COVID-19 cases on the rise, reaching 6,271 new positive tests across New Jersey on Thursday, not far from the state’s all time high of 6,922 in January.

Last week, Marilyn Baer, a spokesperson for the city, said it was “unfortunate and, frankly, irresponsible” for SantaCon’s organizers to bring the event back, after they had cancelled the pub crawl last year due to the pandemic.

The event brings participants from across the area to Hoboken for a day of drinking in 10 bars set to host the event Saturday, with revelers dressed as Santa and his elves, and, in past years, has left the city with one heck of a hangover.

The temporary order takes effect midnight on Saturday Dec. 18 until 6 a.m. on Sunday, and requires bars participating in any pub crawls to turn away patrons who cannot prove they received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, no less than two weeks prior.

Qualifying forms of proof include a CDC issued vaccination card, the state run Excelsior app or a New York City COVID Safe App. Establishments not associated with pub crawls will not be subject to the order.

The policy is necessary both due to the nature of the event, in which participants travel from bar to bar throughout the day, potentially spreading the virus among its participants and residents, as well as other complications, according to a copy of the order.

“It would be practically impossible for health officials to conduct contact tracing” of all participants, the order states.

Hoboken’s office of emergency management, police department and board of alcoholic beverage control will be enforcing the order throughout its duration.

While SantaCon’s organizers promote the event as a fundraiser for charities, residents have tired of the unfettered drinking and debauchery that has sometimes followed in its wake. The last time the event was held, 23 summons were issued for various city violations, including 19 citations for public drinking and open containers.

Even bar owners and their staff have grown weary of the event. In 2017, 30 businesses participated in the pub crawl. Two years later, only nine were permitting the jingle bell drinkers inside, according to a former list of participating locations.

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