Some Mid-South restaurants tighten restrictions amid COVID-19 surge

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 10:45 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Restaurants like the famous Rendezvous in downtown Memphis have had to shut their doors for a few days because employees tested positive for COVID-19.

One restaurant owner said she is going to start requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test to dine inside.

Mary Laws, co-owner of RP Tracks near the University of Memphis, said most of her day and night crews crossed paths, so she decided to close as a precaution while her employees get tested.

“It’s just awfully difficult to make the right decision for the safety and welfare of not only my employees, but the people who come in the front door,” said Laws.

Laws, who hopes to reopen soon, has made the decision to require indoor diners to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test. People who want to eat outside won’t have to do that.

“We are trying to decide how much time to give our customers in order to prepare for that,” she said.

Laws joins two other businesses, Drus Bar in midtown and the Pumping Station, that are already requiring proof of the vaccine or a negative test.

John Vergos said he has 65 employees and all but two are vaccinated. He said he has enough staff to re-open on Friday, but it’s tough running a restaurant in a pandemic.

“It’s terribly frustrating because it could happen again next week and if that happens, I promise you it’s going to any number of my colleagues in the business,” Vergos said.

Vergos said July was a good month and he thought things were looking good until the Delta variant showed up.

Mike Miller, head of the Memphis Restaurant Association, said he supports any restaurant owner who wants to do things like require proof of vaccination. He said he recently sent a letter to the director of the Shelby County Health Department, Dr. Lisa Taylor, to keep the dialogue open.

“We want to recommend and communicate best practices and make sure that we’re serving our customers and the public as safely as we can,” said Miller.

Vergos said he is not at this point requiring diners to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. He said he is just taking it a day at a time.

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