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‘Orwellian’: Denver bar demands proof of COVID vaccination for indoor dining

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A Denver bar clearly buys into the idea of vaccine passports as the establishment is requiring customers to show proof that they are vaccinated against the coronavirus before they can be seated.

Needless to say, the policy isn’t going over all that well with some customers.

Bar Max, which says on its website that it provides “craft cocktails and conversation,” recently reopened for indoor dining after offering a small to-go menu during much of the pandemic.

The website gives a hint at the political mindset of the owner.

“We offer boutique spirits, select wine and beer, as well as a small curated food menu,” the site says. “We are here to promote an inclusive community space for connections and conviviality.”

Two weeks ago, Bar Max announced online: “We made the difficult decision to stay mostly-closed throughout the pandemic, and now we’re making the same difficult decision: To only open for those who have received vaccines.”

We made the difficult decision to stay mostly-closed throughout the pandemic, and now we’re making the same difficult…

Posted by Bar Max on Monday, March 29, 2021


Owner Marshall Smith told CBS4 that people who aren’t vaccinated are permitted to order food and cocktails, they just can’t dine inside the establishment.

“We are not refusing service to anyone,” Smith said. “We still have takeout options, we still have a patio.”

It’s debatable how many people would settle for the other options once turned away.

(Video: CBS4)

“What we are saying is in order to sit down and enjoy a cocktail, we’re asking that you be vaccinated,” he explained.

Sara Grossman, who manages marketing for Bar Max, told the CBS affiliate there has been some backlash.

“We have received a lot of one star and negative reviews on both Google and Yelp over the last week and a half since we announced the official reopening policy,” Grossman said. “And to that I say there’s a lot more people who gave us a review than stopped in the bar, so I’m in the process of figuring out how to weed out those fake reviews.”

All the  employees at the bar have reportedly been vaccinated — whether it was under duress for fear of losing their jobs is not clear.

Smith told CBS4 that customers and employees appreciate his vaccine policy.

“Folks who have literally gone nowhere in the past year, folks who are immunocompromised, frontline workers in healthcare, educators who have been most exposed and impacted, they have come specifically and said to me, ‘This is the first time we have felt safe coming out in more than a year, and we appreciate you doing it,’” he said.

The reaction online ranged from those thanking the establishment to others saying it’s a “media marketing ploy.”

“Good for you, it is your business and you have the right to run it your way and customers need to respect your decision,” wrote one Facebook user.

“This will be interesting under human rights [discrimination] laws and the ADA since restaurants/bars are considered places of public accommodation. Might want to check with your lawyers sooner than later. Could be a fun new area of law,” another said.

“Don’t plan on ever stepping foot in your establishment as long as you require proof of vaccination. Good luck staying open under that tyrannical condition,” yet another user wrote.

“Orwellian bar that discriminates….no thanks,” said one person.

Tom Tillison


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