AUBURN, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The owner of a cafe and candy shop in Auburn is working to diffuse anger directed at his business one month after he reopened indoor dining for customers who are vaccinated.
Signs posted inside Gretchen’s Confections and Cafe read: “Proof of COVID-19 vaccine required fore those 21 or older sitting or eating inside the cafe.”
William Christenson, who owns the business along with his wife Gretchen, says his indoor dining had been closed since the pandemic surge began last October. He said he was only willing to reopen if his staff felt safe.
In an interview with NewsChannel 9, Christenson said, “I have people who have underlying conditions that are a concern. I have people who have personally experience five people that they knew died from COVID.”
This week, someone posted a picture of the powers to Facebook, triggering dozens of angry comments from people across the country.
One commenter wrote, “I’ll never step my foot in to your cafe again and will forward info to my friends & family. Enough tyranny here.”
One man who made his own post with the photo wrote: “Bomb their reviews and send a message to the local business community that we will NOT tolerate this!”
Social media comments have expanded into vulgar voicemails: “It’s not your choice for me to get a vaccine, okay. Plain and simple. It’s not your choice…. You’re a pig. You’re a f***ing pig.”
To clear up misinformation touted on social media, HIPAA rules only apply to private businesses that offer medical services, like hospitals.
CBS News interviewed a policy expert who says it’s lawful for a private business to require vaccines, the same same a way a store can demand “no shirt, no shoes, no service.”
Christenson hopes people read all of the sign before rushing to judgement. The sign indicates people who are not vaccinated won’t be refused service, but will be asked to take their order to-go or outside.
When the signs went up last month, the owners says a few local, loyal customers respectfully expressed their disagreement. Some have even returned.
Christenson says, “Everyone is free to do what they want. I’m doing this because I love my family, I love my staff and I love my customers. I want them to feel safe. If you don’t agree with me, I totally respect your point of view.”
His sign reads: “We appreciate you and your choices.”