Fairbanks restaurant says no vax, no proof, no service

Frank Eagle and Kathy Lavelle, owners of Lavelle’s Bistro in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Lavelle’s Bistro)

A Fairbanks restaurant has started requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for patrons.

Lavelle’s Bistro is a fine-dining establishment right downtown in the Golden Heart City. It shut down for about six weeks earlier in the pandemic, and owners Kathleen Lavelle and Franklin Eagle worried that another coronavirus closure might put them out of business.

Eagle says after they got booster shots, the couple was traveling in Europe and noticed restaurants requiring proof of vaccination. So, he says, they decided to do the same.

Listen here:

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The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Frank Eagle: You know, we’re getting such positive reports from everybody who’s coming into the restaurant, a lot of people who have been shut in for 18 months or more. Basically, they’re telling us it’s their first time out. The verbal support we’re getting from our patrons is really quite incredible. As long as you stay off Facebook, everything’s fine.

Casey Grove: I definitely can relate to that. So what are folks that are opposed to this idea, or are criticizing you, how’s that gone? I mean, what have they said?

FE: Why this virus has turned so political is beyond me. But basically, you know, it’s all about personal freedoms. And people have the right to, you know, choose what goes into their body. And I perfectly agree with them. I also, as a business owner, have the personal freedoms to run my business any way I want. And basically, showing proof of vaccination is just one of the requirements. You know, you’re not allowed to drive a car without a license. You’re not allowed to do a lot of things without being tested for it. And if people don’t want to get tested or don’t want a vaccine, or whatever, they have the right to do that. But I also have the right to stop them from coming into the restaurant.

CG: So how does this actually work? Like if I show up at Lavelle’s, then what happens?

FE: Then we say, “Hi, do you have a reservation?” And they say yes or no. Then we say, “Do you have proof of vaccination?” And 99% of the people are pulling out their vaccination card. That’s no problem at all.

CG: I did wonder, though, like, what happens when somebody shows up, and they don’t have that? And they’re maybe not happy about it?

FE: Some people aren’t happy about it. But basically, you know, they see the signs and it’s not like we’re police or anything. Most people have the picture of their vaccination card on their phone.

CG: I should ask, do you think that you’ve lost any business over this?

FE: You know, when you ostracize 50% of the population? Yes. There’s no question about it. A lot of my good friends who aren’t vaccinated certainly aren’t coming in anymore. A lot of people who have medical reasons why they can’t get the vaccination aren’t coming in anymore. But then again, a lot of people who haven’t been out for 18 months are coming in. So, you know, hopefully it’ll balance out a little bit for us, economically. I just am hoping that people sort of forget about the politics of this all and, you know, perhaps some other businesses could join in this movement to try to stop the spread of this virus. Requiring masks and requiring vaccinations is one small step we can do to try to stay healthy or try not to, you know, die from this virus that is taking way too many lives. Whatever we can do to stop it and get back to normal, that would be good.

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.

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