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Utah bar requiring vaccine opens to wave of support

Posted at 10:08 PM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 00:08:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The tables and chairs were set, and wait staff were doing last minute preps inside The Bayou Wednesday afternoon.

Around 10 minutes before the time the doors would open, the last-minute jitters hit.

"Oh, crap," Mark Alston said, as he looked at the computer screen at the host stand by the front door. The computer wasn't working.

Mark and his wife, Kileen Alston, tried to reboot it.

They needed to get it working, as they got ready for a big moment.

"Having a building full of happy people after we've sat in this empty building for a year-- That's all I want," Mark said.

All he wanted-- but what Mark and Kileen got instead, was a flurry of angry phone calls over the past week.

Hundreds of people called, emailed, wrote messages on social media, and left bad reviews, bashing the rule that The Bayou planned to implement: No COVID-19 vaccination card, no entry.

Read - Utah bar bombarded with angry calls after requiring vaccine to get in

"That is not a f***ing law. I will never feed into this propaganda, V for Vendetta type bullsh**," one caller said. "V for Vendetta?" Alston asked. "Take the red tape off your eyes, sir," she continued. "Red tape? What is red tape?" Alston asked. "Red tape means propaganda, sir. Wake the f*** up. I hope your business tanks after this."

But since word of the rule and ensuing negative phone calls started to spread, Alston explained that support began to pour in from across the country.

"We've gotten hand-written cards, we've got just so many people call and tell us that they haven't been out all year and they finally feel like they can come some place safe. People who said have that they have family members who have cancer... and can come in," he said, beginning to tear up as he spoke. "So, it's good."

About five minutes before the doors opened Wednesday Mark and Kileen got the front computer working, and a couple people began to gather outside. Alston opened the doors, to find happy customers on the other side.

One group gave him a hug. "Yay!" a customer said. "We're back."

A line began to form, with everyone willingly whipping out their vaccine cards to show Mark.

"You are so good," he said to one person, looking down at the card.

A woman walked up, not realizing the policy. Mark explained it to her.

"We have pictures of our cards," she said. "Can we come now?" Mark replied that she could, and the woman clapped in excitement.

Mark carefully inspected cards, noting the name, and making sure it matched up with the person's ID.

"Team Pfizer," he said, to one person. "Sweet! I didn't know Smith's was doing Pfizer."

Patrons soon filled the dining room and bar.

One woman named Diane said it reminded her of back when Utah bars were classified as "private clubs" and had to charge membership fees to get in.

"It's back to the same way, you know, it's a different form of membership, but I think it's a good thing for him to do," she said, later adding, "If you don't want to pay a membership fee, then you're not allowed to eat here."

At the bar, Jonathan Sizemore watched the bartender set a pint of pilsner in front of him.

"I'm extremely happy that I'm able to come here and feel safe, and have a nice cold beer from the tap," he said, raising his glass. "Cheers."

Despite the backlash of the past week, it appeared that The Bayou went back to normal with their re-opening.

The Alston's had just what they wanted-- a building full of happy people.

"It's been the most emotionally exhausting week of my life, probably," Alston said. "But it's good. Yeah. It's really good."