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COVID In Denver: Milk Market, Other Bonanno Concepts Locations, To Require Staff, Guests Be Vaccinated

UPDATE: Renowned Denver Restaurants Now Requiring Proof Of COVID Vaccination

DENVER (CBS4) – You'll need more than a reservation to dine at certain restaurants in Denver by the end of summer. The owner behind some of the city's most popular restaurants will require both staff and customers be vaccinated by the end of September.

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By Sept. 30, Bonanno Concepts says all its staff will be fully vaccinated. The restaurant group is asking that guests be fully vaccinated by that date as well.

"We realized that we need to make a big move now so we aren't having to make a lot of 'little big' moves in the short-term future. We need to pioneer this and make sure that we're doing the right thing for our guests and our staff," said Jessica Kinney, Director of People for Bonanno Concepts.

Bonanno Concepts, the group that includes restaurants like Milk Market, Luca and Green Russel, will require full vaccination status, but they won't ask guests to show vaccination cards.

Rather than bring a vaccine card, guests will be asked to sign a health declaration before entering the restaurant. The form asks guests to fill out their name, phone number, email address and vaccination status.

"We feel the waiver is the best place to begin and then we'll see where it goes from there," said Kinney. "If they aren't vaccinated, we'll ask them to dine somewhere else."

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The Colorado Restaurant Association says nearly 75% of restaurants surveyed don't plan to require masks or proof of vaccine in their establishments.

Long Nguyen, co-owner of Anise, says he plans to align with what local and state guidelines advise for restaurants.  A total of 100% of the employees at his Vietnamese restaurant on Lincoln Street in Denver are vaccinated, but he still requires them to wear masks.

"The most difficult thing that we ever wanted to ask is 'What kind of food should we serve?' said Nguyen. "In our opinion, the City of Denver and the State of Colorado have been doing a really good job managing this up to this point."

All of Nguyen's employees are vaccinated, but Bonanno Concepts employs more than 300 workers. Kinney says there hasn't been much pushback from workers after the policy was announced.

"Their support has really been amazing. We've had 20% of our non-vaccinated employees get signed up to get vaccinated within 24 hours of us rolling out this policy. That has been such a tribute to this decision we made," said Kinney.

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Kinney says the possibility of losing business is a concern, but Bonanno believes their restaurants will come out more successful and safer in the long run.

"At the end of the day, it is going to attract more people. If you feel that you can work in a safe environment, then you're going to be more willing to work here. The same goes for dining. too," Kinney.

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