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Austin Restaurants Backtrack COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement After TABC Says It's Illegal

Launderette is a restaurant located in East Austin's Holly neighborhood. The café, along with its sister restaurants Fresa's, will no longer be requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
/
KUT
Launderette is a restaurant located in East Austin's Holly neighborhood. The café, along with its sister restaurants Fresa's, will no longer be requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining.

Two Austin restaurants announced this week that they’d be requiring proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from people who want to dine indoors. Now, they’re removing the requirement after a state agency told them it was against the law.

The restaurants, Launderette and Fresa’s, which share ownership, announced their new policies on social media Monday — and they appeared to be among the first in the Austin area to do so.

Then on Thursday, they posted an update, saying they would no longer be requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining.

“Yesterday we received word from TABC that we are not allowed by law (Section 14 of the new Senate Bill 968 introduced in June) to ask for proof of vaccination when dining,” both restaurants said on their Instagram accounts.

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Instagram

Senate Bill 968, which the governor signed into law in June, prohibits businesses from requiring customers to show proof of being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission posted a “reminder” on its website Wednesday saying the commission “may require compliance with this law as a condition for holding a license, permit, certificate or other authorization.”

Launderette owners told the Austin American-Statesman TABC reached out to them on Wednesday about the policy.

“Yesterday we received a courtesy call from the TABC saying that we must immediately act in compliance with the law and that if we did not, a case would be opened and we would be at threat of losing our state licenses,” Launderette told the Statesman.

Chris Porter, TABC’s public information officer, confirmed to KUT that TABC reached out to both restaurants to advise them about the new state law.

“In both cases, managers told the agency they weren’t aware of the full requirements of the law and immediately took steps to comply,” Porter said via email.

Porter added that, so far, the agency hasn’t taken formal action against any businesses regarding this new law, but it has asked to meet with businesses that may not be complying in order to educate them.

Both Fresa’s and Launderette say they’ll still be requiring people to wear masks indoors when they’re not sitting down at a table. Masks aren’t required outside.

KUT's Andrew Weber contributed to this report.

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