Segregated dining comes to NYC with restaurants catering to vaxxed patrons

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Segregated seating for the vaccinated is the latest trend to hit the city’s burgeoning post-pandemic nightlife scene with venues saving the best seats in the house (think ground floor with no ugly plexiglass barriers) for  patrons who got jabbed.

It’s become the new smoking and non-smoking sections — only it doesn’t make as much sense, experts said.

For one, state regulations prohibit venues of under 250 people to ask for proof of vaccination, which means anyone can claim to be vaccinated to get the good seats.

Even if venues could enforce it, the risk of catching the disease — especially for unvaccinated people — can’t really be reduced by social distancing or segregation once indoors, health experts said.

Epidemiologist Stephanie Silvera, a public health professor and social-distancing expert at Montclair State University, says people are still susceptible to getting COVID-19 if they are inside a small space and cautions that they should continue to keep their masks on when not eating.

Many business owners agree, saying they’re only creating special vaccinated zones for the simple reason that patrons want to feel like it’s 2019 again.

And that’s just easier to do for vaccinated people, who don’t have to abide by the same mask or social distancing rules anymore because they have a much lower risk of both catching the disease and getting severely sick from it.  

Carroll Place, an Italian-American wine bar and gastropub at 157 Bleecker St. in the West Village, plans to launch its new vaccinated vs. unvaccinated seats on Wednesday, with the main floor being reserved mainly for vaccinated guests.

“I started thinking, once everything starts reopening, people want a sense of normalcy,” restaurateur AJ Bontempo explained.

“When  you first walk in, I’d like there to be an energy, without all that plexiglass, and to reward people for being vaccinated — to give them that experience.”

Carroll Place has 159 seats, with 109 seats on the main floor. Ninety nine of the seats will be for vaccinated customers only with an area in the back — behind a stage — reserved for non-vaccinated guests to comply with disability laws, since their handicapped bathroom is on the main floor.

The restaurant’s 50 seats upstairs will be socially distanced for non-vaccinated diners, along with 130 seats outside.

“It’s based on an honor system,” Bontempo added, citing state laws.
Comedy club Carolines on Broadway, in the heart of Times Square, is also reserving the best seats in the house for the vaccinated.

“The easiest way to get the best seats in the house? Get vaccinated!” says Caroline Hirsch, founder and owner of Carolines.  But even that is based on the honor system.

She says that she first asks for the Excelsior Pass. “If they don’t have it, we ask for their vaccination card, and if they don’t have that, we go by the honor system,” Hirsch said.

“We are trying to get back to business and with a non-vaccinated environment we still have to socially distance people at six feet apart, which severely reduces our capacity. So it was really as simple as that.”

Going forward some shows at Carolines will be for vaccinated patrons only.

For now, separate seating means that the comedy club can remove a plexiglass barrier between the performer and the audience and also end a COVID-19 state rule that required performers to be at least 12 feet away from the audience.

“It’s better energy for the performer — and the audience, not to be separated by 12 feet and plexiglass,” Hirsch said.

“The performers want the seats up front filled with vaccinated people. That’s how we came up with the vax-only area. When you are a comedian, you want to see the laughter, and you can’t get it with the barriers and 12 foot border.”

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