A bar in Mineola may be the first hospitality venue on Long Island to mandate that all customers and workers be vaccinated. The Black Sheep Ale House in Mineola is now requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination for entry.
"My assumption is that this is going to hurt the business," said owner Vincent Minutella, who announced the policy on the venue's Facebook page Monday afternoon. "As a bar owner, my policy has always been to do the best I can to make an environment so people can come in and be safe," he said by phone.
Minutella said the growing spread of the COVID-19 delta variant drove the decision.
The social media response was swift and strong, with more than 700 comments on the post, ranging from "Smart decision" to "I will never step in there even if I’m vaccinated or your policy changes."
The Black Sheep, which opened in 2011, has had a tumultuous 18 months. Minutella shut the bar in March 2020 (before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's mandate) and reopened in the summer, but between social distancing and the 10 p.m. curfew, he couldn’t make a go of it. The bar closed again on the eve of Thanksgiving in 2020 and didn't reopen until May 18 of this year.
Then in early June, Minutella said two of his workers tested positive for COVID-19. He didn’t have enough staff to run without them and had to shut the bar for two weeks and realized that "this virus could put us out of business again."
For now, patrons who want to be served at Black Sheep have to show a New York State Excelsior pass, vaccination card or a smartphone photo of their vaccination card.
Ultimately, Minutella said, the decision to require vaccines is an attempt to bring a modicum of control to what has been an chaotic situation. "I can’t control this virus, these little invisible germs," he said. "This is the one area where I can be proactive, where I can exercise some level of control. It’s not political. And if this results in the business going under, so be it. It’s already been under. I’m just not prepared to be responsible for people’s lives and deaths. I sell beer."