Ruthie’s Bar-B-Que & Pizza on Chestnut street is requiring guests to be vaccinated to eat indoors.
It’s unclear whether the restaurant at the corner of Forest Street is the first in Montclair to institute such a requirement. Leaders of the township’s three major business associations said they didn’t know of any restaurants requiring vaccination, but Ruthie’s isn’t a member of any of those groups.
“Because we are so close to the schools — and now the kids are coming in after football practice all without masks and crowding — I made it a policy to require masks in [the] restaurant if over five people [are] inside (we have a small dining space), and proof of vaccine if eating inside the restaurant,” owner Ruthie Perretti told Montclair Local by email Tuesday.
There is outdoor seating as well, and no masks are required there.
“We needed to set the tone before school starts,” Perretti said. “So far we have had no resistance to showing proof of vaccination.”
A restaurant in Ridgewood had become one of the first in New Jersey to require customers to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination for those wishing to eat inside, NorthJersey.com and others reported. The owner of it’s Greek To Me in has told media he’s uncomfortable with dining indoors because of rising cases of novel coronavirus, largely driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.
Since Monday, New York City has required proof of at least one vaccination shot for activities including indoor dining, use of gyms and attendance at performances.
So far, Gov. Phil Murphy hasn’t followed suit with any similar announcement. He has urged New Jersey residents to wear masks when in indoor public spaces, but stopped short of instituting a new mask mandate after lifting the state’s previous mandate in May.
Anne Marie Sekeres, deputy director of the Montclair Center Business Improvement District that includes hundreds of downtown businesses, said last week she hadn’t yet heard of any restaurants requiring vaccination. As an organization, she said, that’s not something the BID could enforce if sought to. The same goes for the Upper Montclair Business Association, that group’s president, Paul Giordano, said — though members will discuss such policies at their upcoming meetings.
And in the South End Village Association, the story is the same, group president and Café Moso owner Zina Floyd said. The business district’s three restaurants aren’t requiring vaccination, though they are asking patrons to wear masks when they are not sitting down eating.
“Unless the state tells us that we have to ask for vaccination proof, we will not enforce it. Not at the moment,” Floyd said.
Floyd said the eateries have suffered the economic impact of the pandemic. They’ve undergone renovations for safety, and followed required safety protocols that have changed over the course of the pandemic — struggling to stay afloat in difficult circumstances.
“It is mentally exhausting,” Floyd said.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends indoor masking for any area considered to have a “substantial” or higher degree of coronavirus spread. In recent weeks, that’s included all New Jersey counties.
There are several opportunities to be vaccinated in and near Montclair. See Montclairlocal.news/coronavirus for listings.