Local business worries about new bill that calls proof of vaccination for entry unconstitutional

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A controversial bill is making its way through the legislature putting the COVID-19 vaccine back in the spotlight.

It puts limits on businesses and employers when it comes to mandating vaccines.

The Bayou’s owner said once he started requiring proof of vaccination to enter his place he started getting death threats, but he’s keeping it in place for now to protect his employees and customers alike.

However this new bill, HB 60 may take that choice out of his hands.

“We are in a global pandemic,” said owner of The Bayou, Mark Alston.

Since The Bayou reopened in May of 2021 after being closed for 15 months, it’s required proof of vaccination for entry.

The 20-year-old bar has suffered a huge economic loss during the pandemic, but Alston said he’ll always choose what’s right over what’s easy.

“What is showing the passport really helping?” said Rep. Walt Brooks. “If we are going to cross that line of private information, I think we have to honor what we have always honored before and we’ve always done great.”

Brooks is the chief sponsor of HB 60.

If passed, it would prohibit what the bill calls against discrimination status and make it illegal to deny an unvaccinated person entry to a public place in Utah.

Brooks said he wants local businesses to make their own rules but draws the line at vaccine passports.

“That is really the crux of the issue right now,” said Brooks. “We don’t want to have laws that impede on business.”

Meanwhile Alston said he chose to require the vaccine for the safety of his staff and customers.

He knows it was an unpopular choice.

“I did expect some backlash but what I did not expect is I’ve had death threats,” Alston said. “I’ve had to be in contact with the FBI. I’ve had people wish death threats upon everyone in the building and our friends and family.”

The bill would still allow employers to ask employees about their vaccination or immunity status, but it would prevent them from requiring proof of vaccination.

Brooks said businesses can require customers or patrons to wear a mask or provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

“The fact we can ask about it, but not do anything about it is ridiculous,” said Alston. “I mean there’s no point then.”

Alston said no matter what happens with this bill, he will likely drop the requirement in the coming months as Covid-19 cases trend downward.

HB 60 has yet to be read on the floor, and Brooks said if it does not come to a vote or doesn’t get enough votes, he will present this to the legislature next year if Covid-19 continues to be an issue.

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