King County will stop requiring restaurants and bars to verify customers’ vaccination statuses for indoor dining starting March 1, officials announced Wednesday, as case counts and hospitalizations decline and the county removes broader restrictions that have been in place since last fall. Gyms, theaters, and outdoor events with over 500 people that have also been required to check for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test since October 2021 will no longer have to do so starting at the beginning of next month.
“Our public health experts believe that now is the appropriate time to lift vaccine verification, based on high rates of vaccine coverage and the decrease in new cases and hospitalizations across the county,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a news release. “We are moving in the right direction, and can continue taking additional steps toward recovery.”
Starting March 1, it will be up to individual bars and restaurants whether they want to enforce the mandate. Seattle-area restaurant owners differed in their opinions on the October 2021 vaccine verification mandate, some seeing it as an important measure to keep staff safe and others viewing it as an added burden to businesses already struggling from labor shortages and pandemic-related supply shortages. Previously, enforcement of the practice was erratic at Seattle-area restaurants, with many smaller businesses neglecting to check for proof of vaccination even though it was required by the mandate.
Before checking for proof of vaccination for indoor dining was mandated in King County, over 140 Seattle-area restaurants and bars chose to require guests to be vaccinated anyway. In a September 2021 Eater Seattle survey, more than 87 percent of respondents said they wanted Seattle to require vaccine proof for indoor dining. It’s likely many bars and restaurants will keep requiring guests to be vaccinated, even after March 1.