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Boston Mayor Watches As Her Vaccine Mandate Ruins Restaurants

restaurant front in Boston
Image Credit6SN7 / Flickr

The Boston Globe seems convinced that stimulus and philanthropy will save city restaurants. A better idea would be to end the vaccine mandate.

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Having lived in Boston since the mid-2000s, I can attest that February is a hard month for business. Many people have finished buying presents and dining out once New Year’s passes and winter clamps down in earnest. Little inclines them to do so again for the first quarter of the year save Valentine’s Day.

I’ve seen enough businesses close in February in this town to know that if one is still open in March, it’s likely to stay open at least until Christmas. So the vaccine mandates implemented by our newly elected mayor, Michelle Wu, are not just medically dubious and morally untenable, they are an act of cruelty.

Unions representing Boston police and firefighters just won a ruling in a Massachusetts court that blocks the mayor’s orders requiring all city workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The teacher’s union has spoken out against the requirements as well, noting that they disproportionately affect educators of color. (The chief proponent of the idea that such outcomes are de facto evidence of racism, Ibram X. Kendi, occupies a prestigious sinecure at Boston University. He would side with the unions if he were a scholar of any integrity, and not our era’s foremost mountebank.)

But no organization is taking Wu to court on behalf of the restaurants. The hardest quarter of their year is now even harder thanks to an indifferent, ideology-driven mayor. She, like many progressive mayors, is doubling down on mandates for which there is not a scintilla of evidence that they produce better public health outcomes. Her diktats, branded “B Together” in what must be the sweetest coating of rhetorical sugar ever applied to unchecked executive power, require restaurants to demand proof of Covid-19 vaccination of patrons in order to dine in.

These restrictions are having predictable effects. Nate Silver, analyzing data from the reservation app OpenTable, found that reservations at Boston restaurants are down 48 percent in January compared to the same month in 2019. In neighboring Cambridge, which has not instituted such mandates but where many restaurants are demanding proof of vaccination of their own initiative, reservations are down 75 percent.

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association claims that because of the mandates, local restaurants are now losing $10,000 to $15,000 every week. WHDH of Boston reported last week that Wu “will watch the data and make adjustments” (what kind of adjustments, in response to what data, went unsaid) but would leave the mandates in place.

Be Segregated

Two days before “B Together” – lampooned as “B Segregated” on social media – went into effect, the Boston Globe ran a story titled “‘Mission impossible’: With Boston’s proof-of-vaccination mandate set to begin, businesses worry.” This is the kind of responsible journalism of which the Globe is capable when it’s not carrying water for Democrat leaders.

Reporter Anissa Gardizy spoke with restaurateurs. She found widespread skepticism that the mandates would have any effect on the course of the pandemic, and expressions of concern that they would ruin business. One of them called the mayor’s orders “a nonstarter.” “A family comes in and you have four or five people. If one of them isn’t vaccinated, what do you do, throw them out?”

Responsible journalism about this story ended there. On January 19, the Globe published “We thought we’d be past this by now. We were wrong. Support your local restaurants.” There they announced the revival of their #ProjectTakeout effort, which they ran in January 2021 to encourage Bostonians to patronize beleaguered local dining establishments. “Here we go again,” writes the paper. It continued:

Here we are, still. Omicron arrived on the scene, nipping at Delta’s heels, keeping diners home and causing many restaurants to shutter temporarily due to staff outbreaks. Labor is harder to come by than ever. So are some supplies and ingredients, due to supply-chain issues. The cost of everything is sky-high, cutting further into profit margins already whittled to the bone. More restaurants are on the brink of closing.

And so we ask you once more: Support local, independent restaurants. Commit to ordering takeout once a week, or twice, or however often you can afford, to help get these businesses through the next weeks and months.

The author went on at length to advocate for more federal relief. The possibility that labor is harder to come by due to the government’s regimen of unemployment benefits, that supply-chain issues are aggravated by the Biden administration’s continual injections of uncertainty into the economy, or that price inflation is a product of the fact that 80 percent of all U.S. dollars in existence have been printed in just the last two years went unconsidered.

The essay did not mention the mandates except as “a new responsibility to cover.” The author found a Cambridge restaurateur who has required vaccination proof since last May, and said that it’s “about making people as comfortable as possible.”

I am maximally comfortable at home, and the food there is eminently tasty, if you’ll pardon my saying so. Parking is ample and the travel time instant.

No Metrics for Ending Mandate

I could supply vaccination proof, but elect not to. Medical coercion is a human rights violation. A hurried, ad hoc deployment of a new medicine, such as the one we’ve witnessed lately, is an experiment in essence even if it’s not taking place in a lab, and medical experimentation on unconsenting subjects has been recognized as a crime since the formulation of the Nuremberg Code.

There is no evidence that these city-issued mandates are medically effective, or that the current iteration of the disease in question warrants them. I have searched the “B Together” page at boston.gov in vain for any statement about what conditions of hospital occupancy, infection rate, total percentage of population inoculated, or any other aspect of public health would cause the mandates to be rescinded. They appear to be permanent.

Lastly, the longer the mandates remain in place, the more likely it is that they will require additional dosages of whatever concoctions are on offer for Covid-19 beyond the one- or two-shot regimen that qualifies a Bostonian, for now, as vaccinated. This is as sure as night follows day.

With no medical rationale except vague pabulum about “staying healthy,” the mandates must therefore have a political rationale. I reject this. The mayor is not my doctor. As far as I can tell, “B Together” is nothing more than a sweetly named campaign to immiserate the politically non-compliant.

Mayor Is to Blame If Restaurants Close

Likewise, #ProjectTakeout is an attempt by a politically servile media organization to gin up community spirit to solve a problem that exists thanks to Democrat misgovernance at both the local and national level. The mandates don’t require proof of Covid-19 vaccinations for take-out orders, yet. The unvaccinated, as well as those of us who expect to be counted among them soon and have consciences to live by in the meantime, could indeed help maintain local restaurants in the dark of New England winter.

But why should we? The mayor has classified us in a lower caste, with the apparent blessing of the city’s main newspaper. I’ll be sorry to lose the restaurants that finally succumb, but fault for that will lie upon the occupant of the mayor’s office and the supposedly higher caste that put her there.

The Globe seemed determined never to recognize the ill effects of the mandates. On January 20 it covered the award of eighty $5,000 grants from the Massachusetts Conference for Women to woman-owned restaurants in the state. On January 25, it ran an editorial by a local chef, imploring the government, yet again, for further assistance.

On January 27, it ran two pro-mandate letters of comment. The same day it picked up a story from The Washington Post, “Sarah Palin dines in NYC restaurant after testing positive for COVID and defying vaccine requirements.” (If I were naive, I would wonder why that was of interest to either Boston or Washington.)  On January 28, it reported on how DoorDash had given out a round of grants of its own.

It wasn’t until January 31 that Gardizy, the author of the January 13 story, filed “After much fanfare, other cities balk at following Boston’s proof-of-vaccination mandate.” At last a plurality of opinion returned, along with an acknowledgment of the concerns of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. Gardizy noted that Wu had responded to them by saying, “We’re doing everything we can on our end to keep the workforce safe… keep our customers and the public safe.” Wu went on to encourage people to support small businesses.

The mayor and the paper appear convinced that stimulus and philanthropy will save the restaurants if we all do our part, political desirables and undesirables alike. I have a better idea: let anyone who wants to eat in them, eat in them.

This article has been updated since publication.