HOLMES BEACH – While the debate over masks and vaccinations heats up due to the Delta variant of COVID-19, one Island business owner says he doesn’t want unvaccinated customers walking through the doors.
That’s the new policy at the nationally-renowned Beach Bistro and The Doctor’s Office cocktail lounge.
Owner Sean Murphy has gone to great lengths to keep staff and customers safe. The Beach Bistro was the first establishment in the U.S. to acquire state-of-the-art air purification units developed in Denmark that were specifically designed to destroy airborne viruses, he said.
“I called my cousin who is an anesthesiologist and works in a sterile environment. I told him I needed to purify the air in my restaurant, how do I do that?” said Murphy, who also owns The Doctor’s Office and the temporarily-closed Eat Here restaurant in Holmes Beach. “My cousin introduced me to two brothers in Denmark whose father specialized in viral air purification who developed a unit that uses a massive fan to move air which is filtered through ultraviolet light, a HEPA filter and ionization.”
In addition to the floor units, Murphy also upgraded the air conditioning in the restaurant to utilize the same technology and move inside air out and outside air in. All of the air in the restaurant is replaced every three to four minutes.
“My goal is to be the safest restaurant in America,” said Murphy, who hopes his efforts will encourage other restaurants to do what he is doing.
In addition to the air filtration, all of Murphy’s employees at Beach Bistro and The Doctor’s Office – which is following the same policies – have been vaccinated. The restaurateur brought the vaccinations to the employees at the establishment and rewarded each employee with a $100 bonus for getting the vaccine.
Murphy says diners have responded positively to the policy, with nine out of 10 people fine with it, he said. But the people who don’t like it have been especially unpleasant in their responses.
“There’s a nasty little streak on Facebook that’s calling us communists and fascists. One person even said they wanted to get COVID then come here and eat,” Murphy said.
The restaurant can’t legally ask for proof of vaccination, Murphy said. Under Florida Senate Bill 2006, passed in May and made effective on July 1, businesses are not allowed to require customers to provide documentation of COVID-19 vaccination.
But Beach Bistro is reservation only, and when his staff asks if diners have been vaccinated and they say “yes,” Murphy said he believes they are being honest.