Carrboro restaurant Pizzeria Mercato has become one of the first restaurants in the area to require proof of vaccination for dine-in customers — an initiative Gov. Roy Cooper said he supports.
On Thursday, Cooper and other local government officials visited the location to meet with restaurant employees. And, just over a mile from UNC's campus, Cooper added that he supports a vaccine mandate for the UNC System.
“A lot of universities across the country are doing this, and I would support that decision," Cooper said. "I think as we see this delta variant spread, we can get more and more buy-in from all kinds of institutions and businesses. The more people getting vaccinated, the better off we’ll be.”
Pizzeria Mercato owner Gabe Barker said safety continues to be the restaurant's first priority.
“The policy to require both staff and guests to be vaccinated who are in the building is only an extension of that thought process," Barker said.
Customers can show restaurant employees either a physical or digital copy of their vaccination card upon entry. Children unable to get vaccinated are still allowed to dine in as long as they wear a mask when not seated at their table.
Cooper said he supported the restaurant’s decision to mandate proof of vaccination upon entry and emphasized the importance of protecting customers, employees and the community through vaccinations.
“We owe it to those health care workers, the people who can get sick from COVID, to do everything you can to encourage vaccination, because vaccinations are our way out of this pandemic,” Cooper said.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the best way to end the COVID-19 pandemic is by getting vaccinated.
“The statistics change, we put out action together and we do it in a unified front,” Hemminger said. “I'm very grateful for my colleagues working together.”
Since requiring proof of vaccination, business has increased at Pizzeria Mercato, with many customers saying they feel safer eating in a public place thanks to the new measures in place.
Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Caswell and Orange, said that to drive a healthy business climate with restaurants like Pizzeria Mercato, the best thing to do is ensure people get vaccinated.
“Orange County has maintained one of the lowest transmission rates in the state during the pandemic,” Meyer said. “And in part, that's because we also have one of the highest vaccination rates in the state.”
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle thanked Cooper and Barker for keeping the community safe. All of the jurisdictions in Orange County will either require vaccinations for employees or require those unvaccinated to get tested weekly.
“We have 82 percent of our employees fully vaccinated, maybe 90 percent partially vaccinated," Lavelle said.
Cooper said that when businesses and employers require vaccines, they are protecting their workers, customers and communities.
“Policies like these will get more shots in arms that in turn will boost our economy and get us more quickly to the end of the pandemic,” Cooper said.