With seven Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) restaurants in New York City closed until after Christmas because of COVID cases among workers, USHG CEO Danny Meyer on Wednesday announced booster shots will be required for employees and diners.
Boosters will be required for employees as they become eligible “effective immediately,” a USHG spokeswoman said. Union Square restaurants will begin verifying the booster status of diners starting Jan. 24.
The temporarily shuttered USHG restaurants are Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, The Modern, Marta, Ci Siamo, Intersect by Lexus and Porchlight. They are slated to resume service on Dec. 29 or before, in some cases, the company said.
USHG has 18 restaurants in its portfolio.
“Hospitality is a team sport,” Meyer told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” early Wednesday. “If you can’t field a full, healthy team, we’re going to have to hit pause.”
During the closures, USHG is working on sourcing rapid COVID tests for workers to have at home and is setting up booster clinics.
In July, USHG was among the first restaurant operators to mandate COVID vaccines for all employees and diners. That measure went into effect in September.
At the time of that announcement, about 60% to 65% of USHG workers were vaccinated, Meyer said on CNBC.
“We brought almost everybody over the finish line,” he said. “Now, at this point, the science has changed. We know that fully vaccinated means boostered. Things have moved so rapidly.”
He said he currently has no idea what percentage of his workers have tested positive, but acknowledged that progress has been made since 2020 when he would have had to shut down a restaurant if there was even a single case of the virus.
Meyer said making the choice to require boosters was an easy decision.
“What’s been tougher is watching the crushing wave of omicron go through New York City,” he said.
With the highly transmissible omicron variant becoming the dominant COVID strain in the U.S., a number of cities are enacting vaccine mandates and some operators are requiring customers receive their booster shot before dining indoors.
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