San Ramon chains inconsistent on vaccine checks prior to lifting of order


Shravya Salem Sathish

Starbucks locations in San Ramon didn’t check for vaccination status.

Contra Costa Health Services lifted the requirement that restaurants check patrons for COVID-19 vaccination status, or a recent negative test, on Feb. 4 after the county vaccination rate hit 80 percent. 

But how often was this requirement enforced by restaurants throughout the county?

Over the past several months, The Californian editors and writers have visited chain restaurants and cafes in San Ramon to see whether they were checking for proof of vaccination. Of the 14 visits to eateries conducted by The Californian, only three featured a check of proof of vaccination or a negative test taken within three days prior to the visit.

“Most people don’t really know about the requirement [showing proof of vaccination],” senior Andrew Frank, who works at the Marketplace Starbucks, said while the vaccine verification requirement was still in place. “I think that comes from the fact that a lot of other places aren’t enforcing them.” 

Frank said he and his co-workers were instructed to ask for proof of vaccination and ID if customers are dining in. Although there was no system in place to check that employees are doing this, Frank said that from what he observed, most employees did check with customers.

Starbucks locations in San Ramon mostly did not require The Californian editors and writers to show proof of vaccination. The Marketplace location didn’t require editor-in-chief Nicholas Harvey to show proof of vaccination when he ordered a drink and sat in the establishment for 35 minutes on Oct. 28.

A&E editor Allison Cavanagh was asked to show proof of vaccination when she visited the same location on Dec. 6, though only after asking the cashier if vaccination or a negative test was required.

“[The cashier] checked after I asked, but didn’t seem to be checking other people in line who were staying in,” Cavanagh said.

The City Center location of Starbucks did not check for vaccination status when Harvey and online editor Shravya Salem Sathish visited on Nov. 3 and Nov. 27, respectively.

When news editor Andrew Ma and five other non-newspaper students sat at the Starbucks on Alcosta Boulevard and Village Parkway on Jan. 10 for 90 minutes, none of the students had their vaccination status checked, despite there being placards stating proof of vaccination was required on the tables.

 Teaspoon, a boba tea chain with a location in the Marketplace, was also inconsistent with checking vaccination status.

An employee checked staff writer Sophia DiGiovanni’s vaccine card when she visited on Nov. 30 after she had sat down at a table. On the other hand, both times Harvey visited Teaspoon, on Nov. 5 and Dec. 9, and sat down to drink boba tea, nobody checked his vaccination status.

Panera Bread checked the vaccination status of Harvey and his sibling Ari Harvey, the paper’s graphics editor, when they visited on Oct. 30. Ordering kiosks were only open for takeout orders, with sit-in orders needing to be done with a cashier.

The Habit Burger Grill also didn’t check vaccination status when the Harveys ordered a caramel shake on Oct. 29. The cashier marked the receipt as to-go, despite not asking whether they wanted to eat there or take out.

Philz did not check Nicholas Harvey’s vaccination status on Oct. 30 when he worked and ate at a table for 50 minutes, nor did it check when he visited on Nov. 19 in the morning with two other students. Harvey’s receipt from the solo visit was marked to-go despite the cashier not asking whether the coffee and pretzel were intended for outside consumption.

When the Harveys visited Chipotle and Taco Bell in Diablo Plaza on the evening of Oct. 29, ordered food, and sat down, neither had their vaccination status checked. At Taco Bell, there were no cashiers to check vaccination status, only electronic kiosks.

The popular California fast food chain In-N-Out Burger closed five Contra Costa County locations for indoor dining in late October after the county shut down In-N-Out’s Pleasant Hill location for refusing to check vaccination status. The In-N-Out Burger in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf also was closed by officials from the city’s department of public health on Oct. 14, 2021 because the restaurant was not enforcing the city’s vaccine mandate, according to The Guardian.

“For them to just shut down all business because they don’t want to mandate vaccine checks is kind of irresponsible,” junior Sanhita Nittala said when the vaccination or negative test requirement was still in place. “They should be looking out for the safety and health of the community.”

Junior Minahil Afzal felt the same way, saying that it is important for restaurants to check for proof of vaccination in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all California residents 16 and older would be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on April 15, 2021. Since Oct. 29, residents aged five years and older have also qualified for the vaccine.

Everyone 12 and older had to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test from a test taken in the past three days, to go into Contra Costa County restaurants, bars, or fitness facilities until the order was lifted on Feb. 4, according to Contra Costa Health Services.