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What Diners Should Know About Showing Vaccination Proof at Bars and Restaurants

Photo proof of vaccination with an accompanying valid ID is usually accepted; there are also options for those who lost their original document

The storefront of Homer in Beacon Hill, Seattle, with a dark blue facade and the restaurant’s name lit up out front in lowercase script
Homer in Beacon Hill is among the latest Seattle restaurants to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining.

With the delta variant sparking a rise in COVID-19 cases, many bars and restaurants around the Seattle area now require either proof of vaccination with a matching valid ID or a verification of a recent negative COVID test. As of August 4, more than 100 local establishments are implementing these new policies, with more restaurants added each day.

It remains to be seen whether Seattle will follow New York City’s lead and institute a wide mandate for vaccine proof across all restaurants for indoor dining. So far, it doesn’t appear that local authorities are leaning that way: When asked about the possible policy, Anthony Derrick, a spokesperson for Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, said that Durkan “supports any employers in Seattle who are requiring vaccines and all businesses who are requiring customers and employees to be vaccinated, with exceptions where legally required,” and indicated that the current effort is more focused on “consistent policies across local, county, and state workers,” not the hospitality industry.

Regardless of whether there eventually is a citywide mandate or not, fully vaccinated diners in Seattle will need to think about what they need to bring with them when they go out and how the process works. Here are some tips to consider.

Clear Photo of a Vaccination Card Is Fine, Maybe Even Preferable

It’s unclear why vaccination cards are so flimsy and don’t fit into most wallets — but that’s the way it goes. Fortunately, most bars in Seattle say they accept a photo of the card, and sometimes even an email that verifies one’s vaccination, as long as either one is accompanied by a valid ID. In fact, it might be better for one to keep a photo of the card handy, rather than risk losing the original document. “We’re not TSA,” says Eli Dahlin, co-owner of Chophouse Row’s wine bar Light Sleeper. “This is supposed to be easy; we are trying to protect our staff, not hassle our customers. It’s the same routine as showing your ID to a bartender.”

Those Who Have Lost Their Cards Can Still Access Proof of Vaccination

Washingtonians can access their official vaccine records from the state’s department of health through the immunization record portal MyIR. Once users make an account and link it with their records, they can pull up their COVID vaccination certificate from the mobile app. Getting the account set up is a bit time-consuming, but there’s a support staff on hand and, once it’s done, calling the record is a little easier than sifting through cell phone photos. Those who have iPhones can also scan documents using the Notes app, which allows the image to be available on all Apple devices.

What Happens to Those Who Only Just Started the Vaccine Process?

Health officials do not consider full immunization to occur until two weeks after people receive their second Moderna or Pfizer shot, or single Johnson & Johnson shot. Those who are between shots, or are still less than two weeks out from completing their vaccine series, have a higher risk of contracting COVID and may want to consider whether it’s wise to dine inside a restaurant at all. Since the policies enacted by individual businesses are not part of an official mandate, enforcement may be ad hoc. But all the owners Eater Seattle talked to say that “proof of vaccine” means fully vaccinated by the book, with occasional exceptions made for kids under 12 (see below). Some restaurants and bars accept proof of a negative COVID test within 48 hours as an alternative (others stretch that to 72 hours), but it may simply be best to wait until completing one’s vaccine series to dine inside.

It’s Always a Good Idea to Bring a Mask

While many restaurants let fully vaccinated customers dine inside without masks, some still prefer to have diners mask up when not actively eating and drinking. In fact, that’s the latest official recommendation from King County health officer Dr. Jeffrey Duchin for all county residents, whether fully vaccinated or not. Breakthrough COVID cases are rare, but recent studies show there is still some risk of vaccinated people transmitting the disease — so masking up when not actively eating and drinking is yet another failsafe to protect oneself and others.

Those Unwilling or Unable to Provide Vaccination Proof Should Be Prepared to Go Elsewhere (or Sit Outside)

Parents may wonder what will happen if they bring younger children to places that require vaccines, since those under the age of 12 aren’t eligible for COVID vaccines at all. Most of the places in Seattle instituting stricter policies are bars and breweries which are 21-plus anyway. But there are still a few restaurants with vaccine policies where diners who haven’t been fully vaccinated or can’t provide proof are welcome to dine outside, and where kids under 12 can still eat inside as long as they wear masks (Homer in Beacon Hill has made such an exception, for instance). It’s best to call ahead to make sure, though. For people who simply don’t want to follow a certain restaurant’s requirements, Seattle is a big city with many other options — and you can also eat at home.