Vaccine Mandate

Proof of vax card

Vaccine Mandates for In-House Diners

Andy Cook, Harbor Foodservice’s Restaurant Consultant

While King County is our largest by population, it’s not the only Washington County with a Vaccine Mandate in effect. As we approach the holiday season chances of case rates among the unvaccinated will likely jump… and this could inspire other counties (or the state) to implement similar mandates. If this occurs it will most likely mirror King County’s and when it does it will do so with a staggering amount of minutia and lumped together with neighboring industries (movie theaters, gyms, concert venues, etc.)

If you’re already in a vaccine mandated area, or curious to be more aware, the following information has King County’s filtered down to the critical few restaurant/bar related aspects.

Who is required to show proof of vaccine or negative test and in what areas of your restaurant?
  • People 12 and older for INDOOR DINING
    • These are butts in seats. Takeout, counter service, outdoor seating, etc. are exempt.
  • People with disabilities who may not have access to, or the ability to show, vaccine or test status may verbally communicate and should be allowed to do so.
  • Must be fully vaccinated. One out of two shots does not count.
  • Proof must be shown every visit.
  • It is okay to keep a copy of a guest’s vaccine on file.
  • ID is NOT required. Asking for ID is not allowed.
  • Employees are not required because they are governed by OSHA & WA State DOL.

What constitutes proof of vaccine or a negative test?
  • A CDC vaccine card or photo of vaccine card.
  • Documented proof of vaccination from medical record or vaccine provider.
  • Proof of vaccination from another state or county.
  • Printed certificate or digital record from or similar apps.
  • Documentation of medical or religious exemptions are NOT accepted as proof of vaccine.

What constitutes proof of negative test?
  • Any type of COVID-19 test administered by a testing provider can be used. Testing providers are required to use FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 tests. The negative result must be within the past 72 hours
  • Rapid tests used without the supervision of a testing provider will NOT be accepted.


King Co. is focused on education & outreach and is working to develop a process for submitting complaints, defining egregious non-compliance, and building a compliance plan.

Staff considerations:

Our workforce has been forced to bear the brunt of far too much abusive behavior from reactive patrons (not that there’s and acceptable amount of abusive behavior). This dynamic, and their role in screening for it, puts them front and center for similar conflicts.

It is CRITICAL that your frontline staff are prepared and supported through this. This is a perfect opportunity to showcase the value you place on their wellbeing, your commitment to safer, more positive workplace, and building a better sense of community that will strengthen retention.

It's always better to diffuse conflict before it spikes. I recommend having your staff approach vaccine verification, not as enforcers, more like crossing guards. For instance:

“Are you aware of the vaccine mandate for restaurants that we’re required to uphold?”

-is better than-

“If you don’t have proof of vaccine, you’re not allowed here.”

Other worthy considerations are:
  • Identify and communicate the mandate, your position, and how you’re complying.
    • Post signage appropriately in your establishment
    • Put it front and center on your website, post on your social media feeds (repeatedly).
    • Update your Google Business listing.
  • Provide staff with interaction examples.
  • Give your people a clear sense of being backed up by identifying when to disengage with a frustrated guest, who to turn to, and organize permissive support throughout the team to promote co-worker support.

You can watch our video presentation on this subject below.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns that we may be able to assist you with.