Restaurants sick of the vaccine pass hassle

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Restaurants sick of the vaccine pass hassle

To protest the government’s vaccine pass policy, restaurants in Gueui-dong, eastern Seoul’s Gwangjin District, turn their lights off on Dec. 27. [YONHAP]

To protest the government’s vaccine pass policy, restaurants in Gueui-dong, eastern Seoul’s Gwangjin District, turn their lights off on Dec. 27. [YONHAP]

 
After two weeks of the vaccine pass system, restaurant owners say it's a big hassle, and worry that it might cost them customers. 
 
“During the pandemic, [checking vaccine passes] can't be avoided, but I feel depressed,” said Mr. Han, 56, who has run a restaurant in Seogyo-dong, western Seoul’s Mapo District, for nine years. Han doesn’t allow entry to any diner who doesn’t present a vaccine pass.
 
“Some guests without a pass complain that other restaurants allowed them in, and ask why I don't,” he added. “I think I turn away about two to three groups of people every day and that really has a big impact on my sales.”
 
Since Dec. 13, all restaurant in Korea have been required to check all customers for either a vaccine pass, which proves they've been inoculated, or a negative PCR test result within the previous 48 hours.
 
Some restaurant owners admit they're not so strict.
 
“It is tricky,” said Mr. Lee, 32, who runs a Japanese restaurant near Hapjeong station in Mapo District. “I have no other choice but to be less thorough [at busy times] and I have not turned away any diner so far.”
 
Mr. Jeong, who works at a nearby barbecue restaurant, agreed that checking for passes is added work.
 
If a diner without a vaccine pass or a negative PCR test result is found in a restaurant or café, both diner and business owner are fined.
 
The diner can be fined 100,000 won ($84.22).
 
Restaurant owners are liable to a 1.5-million-won fine for a first offense, and can be shut down for 10 days. A second offense comes with a 3-million-won fine and a shutdown of 20 days. A third offense comes with a 3-million-won fine and a shutdown of three months. A fourth offense leads to the business being permanently shut down.
 
“I’m scared to get fined or be ordered to shut down temporarily,” said Mr. Seong, who runs a restaurant in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul. “I’m so angry because it’s already challenging to cope with the slump in business." 
 
Another restaurant owner said they wouldn't be able to afford a 1.5-million-won fine with daily revenues around 300,000 won to 400,000 won.
 
“[If caught,] I can’t apply for any compensation [from the government] later on. So I have no other choice but to follow the rules.”
 
Authorities checking on the restaurants say their job is pretty unpleasant.
 
“When we check on them, we see how discontent they are, and sometimes quite brutal with the use of vulgar language,” said one district official, who said about 13 to 14 violations are reported daily.
 
 
 

BY HAM MIN-JUNG [kjdnational@joongang.co.kr]
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