Local restaurant chain to mandate vaccine for workers amid Biden administration guidance

Coronavirus

SAN DIEGO – A local restaurant chain with four locations in San Diego County says it will mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for its workers amid a new requirement announced Thursday by President Joe Biden to clear a path out of the pandemic.

Farmer’s Table employs more than 100 San Diegans at its four locations in the San Diego neighborhoods of Bay Park and Little Italy as well as in Chula Vista and La Mesa. Prior to Thursday’s sweeping new order rolled out by Biden, employees were encouraged to get vaccinated, but it now will be required for all, said Sara Arjmand, marketing director for Farmer’s Table.

“They want everything to go back to normal because they know how much it hurts for small business owners to be shut down for so long and they went through so much during the pandemic,” Arjmand said. “They just want to go back to normal.”

Biden’s new order applies to employers with more than 100 workers, effectively mandating vaccinations or requiring weekly testing in a move that could impact as many as 100 million Americans, according to the Associated Press.

The president has asked the Department of Labor to issue an emergency temporary standard to officially implement the requirement.

“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said. “And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having unprecedented and successful vaccination program — despite the fact that for almost five months, free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations — we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot. And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19.”

In a statement Thursday, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Sanders called the vaccine “the best way to ensure businesses safely stay open,” while also keeping workers healthy and growing the economy.

“While we are optimistic that today’s orders will motivate more people to get vaccines, we are anxious to see the specific guidance for some of the components,” the statement reads. “More specifically, the emergency temporary standard (ETS), will be the critical piece to the success of any requirement.”

Arjmand says Farmer’s Table will not wait.

“They are not going to wait for OSHA,” she said. “They are going to go immediately into making it mandatory.”

But the move by the Biden administration did not win universal acclaim, including from San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond. In a tweet, Desmond said he’s “always believed the government should stay out of the way when it comes to telling business owners how to operate.”

“I thought the government mandating business closures in 2020 went too far,” Desmond said. “Similarly, I’m not one to tell businesses how to open and operate.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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