COLORADO SPRINGS — A local entrepreneur who owns several businesses in Downtown Colorado Springs is requiring all of his employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by September 1 as cases of the Delta variant continue to rise.
A mask mandate is one of many challenges facing Joseph Campana and the various restaurants and bars he owns. Throughout his locations, which include The Rabbit Hole, Shame & Regret, and Bonny & Read, Campana said he has around 150 employees. As businesses reopened, he was grateful to have around 140 of those employees come back. He said problems arise when trying to hire new employees. "People aren't willing to work or don't want to work. I'm not sure why. I think it's unemployment, I think it's daycare, I think there's still a pandemic out there and people are still afraid to work," said Campana.
Campana estimated around 80% of his staff are vaccinated. All of them must have started the COVID-19 vaccination process by September 1. Any employees who are not vaccinated are required to wear masks while working. "We want our customers to come in and feel safe knowing that all our staff is entirely vaccinated," said Campana.
The businesses will not be checking customer's vaccination status.
"My wish is for the other restaurants downtown and businesses to take the lead and actually start implementing this, because if we don't we're going to get shut down again."
Campana was able to open a new location during the pandemic. Bonny & Read Sushi opened around a month ago. "We were scheduled to open last year, and the minute I signed my lease, COVID hit. So, we've been waiting to open. We never thought it was a good time to open during COVID or during 50% occupancy," said Campana.
The price of product has also increased substantially, forcing Campana to raise menu prices. "Filet mignon went from $13-$18 a pound, up to $38 a pound. Crab went from $400 a box to $590 a box. Chicken went up from $60-$70 a case to $190 a case... With price gouging, I mean, restaurants aren't going to be able to maintain this. There's no possible way. I don't see how they can do that. We can barely hold on right now and we have eight restaurants," said Campana.
In addition to the staffing and price challenges, Campana said all of his locations have been extremely busy. "We're just overwhelmed. I think a lot of people aren't used to being outside again. That's an issue. People are acting up a lot lately, we've kicked numerous people out, more so than we ever have before in the ten years I've been owning a restaurant," said Campana.
On top of all of that, Campana said he is nervous about the Delta variant of COVID-19. "I know people are going to get mad at me for saying this, but I believe that we should all probably go back to wearing masks again if people aren't going to get vaccinated," said Campana.
He said it would not be too difficult to implement a mask policy inside of his locations if Governor Polis made it mandatory. "If we're doing it on our own, it's going to be a different story. It's going to be really hard to implement, because a lot of the people who come here are from Texas, California, they're from out of state, Oklahoma, they don't want to wear a mask," said Campana.
There are exemptions to the vaccine mandate for employees who have a valid medical or religious reason. Campana said as long as the businesses respect those exemptions, then this is legal for them to require.