Photo: Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images
Since the time the city’s vaccination mandate went into effect last month, New Yorkers have looked for ways around it. Vaccine resistance fighters (and teens wanting to break into bars) fueled the market for counterfeit CDC cards, while some anti-vaxxers have taken to hitting and even stabbing hostesses and security guards who have become vaxx bouncers. . And now, a new website is crowdsourcing a list of sites across the country that don’t ask for proof of vaccination in defiance of local mandates. Or, as the site says in lowercase at the top of the main page, “We help you find businesses that don’t discriminate.” The website, which Curbed does not name, was created on August 23, just weeks before the city began implementing its mandate, and operates an Instagram account under the same name that features what it calls ” companies for freedom ”.
New York State dominates the directory with 55 companies listed as well as eight more at the bottom of the list that have been greyed out with the wording “NOW DISCRIMINANT.” The five boroughs, Queens in particular, feature prominently. The list includes a few surprises, like Purity Diner – located in the highly vaccinated Park Slope – which delivered free meals to health workers through its Frontline Fund last year. An employee who answered the restaurant’s phone said he was actually checking proof of vaccination. Likewise, in Astoria, another neighborhood with a high vaccination rate, Avenue Cafe, a popular Mediterranean restaurant, is in the directory. But a restaurant hostess told Curbed he was checking diners’ immunization status. Less surprising are places like the boutique fitness studio Pilates by Sylvia, located in the city center, which states on its own website: “We respect everyone’s medical privacy, and every customer’s decision, and won’t ask. no proof of vaccination. The Pilates studio did not immediately return requests for comment.
It might not come as a shock that a site that runs on user submissions doesn’t verify the advice it receives; it is also possible that the execution of the mandate in any business depends largely on who is working at the door that day. Obviously, the site is a small operation; the crowdfunding page linked to the website describes the founders as “two New York business owners who refuse to give in to forced medical warrants.” The owner of the directory did not respond to emails for comment. Beyond its ledger, the site also asks for “moves in your state” submissions, but the only “moves” the website refers to are the New York State vs Money Orders and New York Instagram accounts. Freedom Rally, who both opposed vocally. city and state vaccination mandates and have a total of 19,000 followers.
On the associated Instagram account (which the website directs visitors to), the followers are more vocal. Below the messages – like the one with a sign at Korner Pizza in Kensington that read: “WE DO NOT DISCRIMINATE ANY CUSTOMER BASED ON SEX, GENDER, RACE, CREDO, AGE, VACCINATED OR UNVACCINED” – commentators praise it (“It’s amazing! I really don’t want to eat or get too close to the vaccinated”), and featured companies sometimes leave appreciation notes (“Thank you so much for the support !! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 ”in the case of Korner Pizza).
A representative from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said it was “strange and disappointing that some people are crowdsourcing ways to make New York City less immune to COVID-19.” But the mayor’s office did not say whether it had specific plans to investigate the companies on the list, only that it was monitoring the directory – a half-hearted response from law enforcement; only 15 companies were actually fined for flouting the city’s vaccine mandate after more than 31,000 inspections.