Owner of the It’s Greek to Me restaurant Paul Vagianos is a self-proclaimed germaphobe. The Ridgewood restaurant is now requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to eat inside. Proof could be a physical vaccination card, a picture of your card or an online pass.
“My North star in all of this has been that I was a germaphobe before the pandemic began,” Vagianos said. “Everything we do is determined by my personal comfort level and safety and, so far, we’ve been in a good place on that.”
It’s Greek to Me in Ridgewood closed its dining room last March before the state mandate, and began doing contact-free delivery before there was a term for it. Now, they are once again ahead of the curve in requiring proof of vaccine without a state or federal mandate requiring them to do so.
Thee policies are a reaction to the rise of the delta variant of COVID, which is said to be more infectious. The CDC recently recommended that even fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors in areas experiencing high rates of breakthrough cases, or if they are immunocompromised or regularly come into contact with someone who is.
Vagianos made clear that this requirement is a tool to help diners and employees feel comfortable: “This is not checking for fake IDs. We’re doing the best that we can. We’re going to figure it out as we go along, as we do with everything.” Vagianos said.
Vagianos said he is not worried about backlash from this decision, as all of his staff is already vaccinated and so are his customers. Vagianos checks in with every table at his restaurant to ask how the food was, and ever since the idea of requiring proof came to him, he’s been asking diners what their vaccine status is. He admits that this isn’t a very scientific poll, but reports that the vast majority of patrons are vaccinated.
The one issue Vagianos does foresee is families with children too young to be vaccinated. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for a vaccine. Currently, outdoor dining is still a possibility, so families can be accommodated, but after the weather turns, a solution isn’t so clear. Vagianos said that greenhouses were successful in keeping diners warm during fall of 2020, and he would be open to putting those back up.
The reaction to the policy has been largely positive, according to Vagianos, and he is very comfortable in his current position.
“It is my responsibility to my community to ensure as best as is humanly possible that when people walk in the door they are safe — they are safe from foodborne illnesses and airborne illnesses,” Vagianos said. “My customers and my staff rely upon me for their safety every day, and that’s the corner of the world that I need to make safe.”