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'A Kick In The Ribs': Boston Restaurants Prepare For New COVID Vaccine Requirements

BOSTON (CBS) – Restaurants in Boston are preparing for yet another change in how they operate during the COVID pandemic. Starting Saturday, a new set of vaccine requirements go into place in the city.

"We've had to really rewrite the business model for restaurants since day one of the pandemic and sadly now it continues as we go through yet another turn 22 months in," said Bob Luz, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

Starting Saturday, all employees and customers will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

"It's like 'Groundhog Day' every day if you're in the restaurant industry," Luz said. "It's like I'm Bill Murray hitting the alarm clock and it just plays another round of how to challenge a restaurant."

Chris Coombs, chef and owner of Deuxave restaurant, spent Thursday gearing up for Saturday's new regulations.

"It's sort of a kick in the ribs," Coombs said.

If the main course throughout the pandemic has been restrictions with a side of supply chain issues, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association feels these new rules will be served with a series of difficult tasks as well.

"Unvaccinated employees will no longer to be able to come in starting Saturday," Luz said.

One challenge will be maintaining a strong staff after already losing so many employees.

"This is going to be another obstacle for us in terms of staffing, it could affect hours of operation, it could affect days of operation. We will have to wait it out," Luz said.

Employees will also have to undergo training to verify vaccination cards.

"There are some holes in this system," Coombs said. "First and foremost, the vaccination card is very easily faked. Unfortunately our teams are not trained to identify whether a card is fake or real."

"We're going to do exactly what we are told, which is that we have to look at the card and make sure it's valid and make sure it's real. But look, we have a hard enough time training people on fake IDs with licenses. But we've been doing that since restaurants opened," Luz explained.

Luz and Coombs both expressed concerns with what this safety measure prevents.

"We are concerned that the vaccine mandate provides the guest with maybe a false sense of security," Luz said. "The reality is breakthrough cases are happening left and right, right now. Just because I'm vaccinated doesn't mean I don't have the virus and I can't pass it forward."

Restaurant workers are also concerned with how customers will react to enforcement.

"They are not trained in de-escalation," Luz added.

The hope is people will remain understanding, realizing this is a city requirement and not something put into place by the establishments.

"If it's the best thing for public safety I feel like, you know why not," one woman said.

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