According to a post on social media, both Leo. a public house and Lola Bistro are requiring proof of vaccination and matching identification for service. The post says this policy will start Aug. 4. Both restaurants are owned and operated by chef/owner Michael Barnhouse and his wife Yelena. Barnhouse says that proof of vaccination is only required for dine-in service, not take out.
According to the CDC, Allegheny County has moved into the "substantial" level of coronovirus transmission. This means everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated, should wear masks in indoor public settings. On Aug. 2, Allegheny County recorded a three-day total of 320 new COVID-19 cases, continuing a trend of rising cases throughout last week.
The response to Leo's and Lola Bistro's decision to require vaccination for service has been mostly positive, according to the social media post. Barnhouse says the decision to require vaccinations was about protecting people in the North Side community, who he says is the vast majority of his clientele.
"We got to pull the trigger on this," says Barnhouse. "First and foremost, we got to protect the people in our neighborhood. That is out first priority."
Barnhouse estimates that about 70% of customers at Leo and Lola are from the North Side, and he knows most of them personally. He says many of them are older and some have immunity issues. Barnhouse says the other 30% of his customers usually come from out of the area, staying in the North Side's large percentage of Airbnb rentals. He says its reasonable to require vaccination because he doesn't know if a percentage of his customers are vaccinated.
"We are literally doing this for people we care about, that’s it," says Barnhouse, who adds that the trajectory of cases is too high not to take action.
Leo. a public house and Lola Bistro join at least one other Pittsburgh restaurant in requiring vaccination for service. Apteka, a vegan eastern European restaurant in Bloomfield, re-opened for dine-in service on July 24 and has been requiring dine-in customers to be vaccinated, according to a social media post.
Other companies have also been reinstituting COVID restrictions as cases continue to rise. Grocery chain Giant Eagle announced that it is requesting vaccinated and unvaccinated customers to wear masks while shopping starting Aug. 5, and will have all employees wear masks while inside its stores. Giant Eagle is also considering a requirement that all employees get vaccinated.
As of Aug. 2, about 55% of Allegheny County residents are fully vaccinated, with about 60% having at least one dose of the vaccine. The gap in vaccinations appears to be that of people age 45 and younger. According to health officials, 99% of people 65 and older in Allegheny County are vaccinated. However, those rates are much lower for many Pittsburgh-area counties outside of Allegheny County.