Baton Rouge restaurants still grappling with mask, vaccine requirements 

As COVID-19 vaccine distribution continues throughout Louisiana, restaurant owners are faced with a challenge: Are employees allowed to take off their masks? 

Statewide mask mandates lifted April 28, but many restaurant owners, including Bistro Byronz and Pizza Byronz owner Emelie Alton, still require their staff members to mask up. 

“We’re in the middle of investigating if we’re going to change that or not,” Alton says. “We will continue to encourage our staff to get vaccinated, but we won’t be making the leap to having it required.” 

The predicament, Alton says, is that some staff members either can’t or won’t be able to receive the vaccination; however, she will adhere to customer requests for staff members to wear masks, even after the restaurant’s own restrictions are lifted. 

Other remnants of the pandemic still exist in Alton’s restaurants, namely extra hand sanitizing stations and bar code menus. Both will stay, although Alton finds most customers request physical copies of the menu. 

“This is a transitional period,” Alton says. “We still want to have both options available.” 

Solera and Bin 77 owner Mitch Rodgers also won’t be requiring his employees to get the vaccination, saying “it’s their own personal information,” although he believes “most of the staff is completely vaccinated.” Now, his staff members go without masks unless specifically asked to wear one. 

Pluckers Wing Bar server Walter Miller says he and other staff members were required to show proof of vaccination before being permitted to go mask-less at work. In his opinion, customers appreciated the extra precautions Pluckers took to ensure guests’ safety. 

Lisa Boudreaux LeCoq of the Gilded Artichoke catering has a unique perspective on mask regulations through her roles as the Louisiana Restaurant Association Baton Rouge Chapter President and a local food entrepreneur. For the most part, LeCoq’s business has catered parties where “people are done with masks.” 

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