A hostess at an Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan was assaulted by three tourists from Texas after she asked to see their proof of vaccination on Thursday, the police said, four days after enforcement of the city’s vaccine mandate for indoor diners began.
The altercation occurred after a hostess at the restaurant, Carmine’s, asked the tourists to show her proof they were vaccinated against Covid-19 before entering for dinner, the police said. New York City requires people to prove they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine before dining indoors.
The tourists, who were identified as Kaeita Nkeenge Rankin, 44, and Tyonnie Keshay Rankin, 21, of Humble, Texas, and Sally Rechelle Lewis, 49, of Houston, began to argue with the hostess over the requirement, the police said. It was not immediately clear if they displayed proof of vaccination.
As the argument escalated, the women began punching the hostess, who is 24, breaking her necklace during the assault. The hostess was left bruised and scratched up by the attack, the police said.
All three women were arrested and charged with assault and criminal mischief before being given desk appearance tickets and orders to return to court.
Last month, New York City became the first city in the country to require proof of at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine for indoor dining and other activities, like live performances, gyms and movie theaters. Enforcement of the policy began on Monday.
“It’s a shocking and tragic situation when one of our valued employees is assaulted for doing their job — as required by city policies — and trying to make a living,” a spokesperson for Carmine’s said in a statement. “Our focus right now is caring for our employee and the rest of our restaurant family. We are a family-style restaurant, and this is the absolute last experience any of our employees should ever endure and any customers witness.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been aggressively pushing for New Yorkers to get vaccinated through the use of mandates, prizes and cash incentives. Mr. de Blasio said Friday morning during an appearance on WNYC Radio that 80 percent of adult New Yorkers and almost 70 percent of New Yorkers aged 12 to 17 had received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Asking customers to provide proof of vaccination has placed most of the burden of enforcement on restaurant workers, particularly the front-of-house staff members who are often the first to engage with customers seeking to enter. Businesses that do not require customers to show their vaccine cards are subject to fines starting at $1,000, with increased fees for repeat offenses.
As of Thursday, the city had conducted 3,733 inspections of indoor establishments and issued 1,583 warnings, according to a spokesman for Mr. de Blasio. No fines have been issued so far.
In a statement, Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, called on the city to do more to educate those seeking to visit New York about the city’s vaccine mandate. He also called for harsher punishments for those who assault restaurant workers trying to enforce Covid-19 protections.
“Assaulting a restaurant worker for doing their job is abhorrent and must be punished,” Mr. Rigie said. “We’re calling on the City and State of New York to immediately increase penalties for assaulting restaurant workers in New York City in conjunction with enforcement of Covid-19 protocols.”
Dana Rubinstein contributed reporting.