The East Atlanta Village restaurant and bar, co-owned by Armando Celentano, temporarily suspended indoor dining on July 18 and later posted a sign essentially barring unvaccinated people from entering the restaurant, following positive COVID-19 results among some of Argosy’s vaccinated staff members. Celentano was apparently among those who recently tested positive, the AJC reports. Customers could be asked by Argosy staff members to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, according to the policy. Those who cannot do so may be asked to leave the restaurant.
The move by Argosy comes as COVID-19 cases surge in Georgia due to the highly contagious Delta variant, especially among the unvaccinated population. While rare and less likely to cause serious illness or hospitalization, breakthrough cases have been found in vaccinated people. COVID-19 cases in Georgia are up by 203 percent over the last 14 days, averaging 1,628 cases per day. Only 38 percent of eligible Georgians are currently fully vaccinated, according to tracking data collected by the Centers for Disease Control.
Celentano believes he and three other employees were exposed “at different times to unvaccinated people.” He says all of Argosy’s employees are fully vaccinated, save one person for medical reasons. Employees are required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Celentano is considering reinstating the mask policy for customers who are not seated at a table.
“It is a question of quality of life and safety for my staff and guests,” Celentano told the AJC regarding the vaccine policy. “It’s a privately owned, small business and I have to do what I think is right to protect the people who rely on me to make a living.”
As expected, the new policy at Argosy drew both public applause and ire on social media, mostly falling along political lines similar to the divide caused by mask mandates last year.
Greene, who represents congressional district 14 in far northwest Georgia, referred to Argosy’s pro-vaccine policy as “segregation”, asking if the restaurant would also screen people trying to enter the establishment for other diseases such as AIDS, meningitis, pink eye, hepatitis, and STDs.
This is called segregation.— Marjorie Taylor Greene (@mtgreenee) July 26, 2021
Will you be testing everyone at the door for the flu, strep throat, stomach bugs, colds, meningitis, aids, venereal diseases, Hep A, Hep C, staff infections, athletes foot, pink eye, croup, bronchitis, ringworm, scabies, or any other contagions? pic.twitter.com/osUBTYqGCg
Following Greene’s tweet Sunday evening, state representative David Dreyer took to Twitter in support of Argosy, urging people to join him. Dreyer represents house district 59 on the state level, which includes portions of city of Atlanta and East Atlanta Village.
It should be noted that HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, does not prohibit retail stores or restaurants from asking people for proof of vaccination or from answering any other health-related questions. Individuals have the right to refuse to provide that information upon request. However, asking for this information by a restaurant or retail shop is not a violation under HIPAA, which prohibits the release of personal health information and records by a doctor, physician’s office, or hospital, health insurance or billing company, or other “covered entities” under the Act without an individual’s prior consent.
Eater reached out to Celentano for comment and further details on the “no vax, no service” policy at Argosy.
A growing number of restaurants across the country are implementing similar vaccine policies, including in San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles. Some Atlanta restaurants, including Little Bear and both locations of Aviva by Kameel, temporarily closed following breakthrough cases among vaccinated staff. Others, like bakery Hell Yeah Gluten Free and Cabbagetown bar 97 Estoria, have reinstated mask policies for employees and patrons to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.