Black Sheep Cafe and Catering started requiring its dine-in customers be vaccinated against Covid starting Sept. 7, 2021. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Jen Mignano said it was a difficult decision to require that customers in her café be vaccinated against Covid to dine inside the small space.

The co-owner of Black Sheep Café and Catering said the decision was driven out of concern for people who are immunocompromised in the community and pragmatism. Her business, located at 1932 McGilchrist St. S.E., wouldn’t be able to survive a two-week shutdown if someone got sick.

On Aug. 31, the café posted to Facebook that it would be requiring proof of vaccination for those wishing to dine in starting Sept. 7. The post garnered nearly 500 comments, mostly positive.

"You have just done what's been needed far and wide, and what nobody else seems to be brave enough to do! HUGE (K)UDOS to you! I haven't eaten at Black Sheep Café before, but I will be placing my first order tomorrow lunch! I am now a customer. Thank you, thank you, thank you!" wrote Karla Iverson.

While restaurants requiring proof of vaccination is more common in Portland, Salem Reporter is only aware of two restaurants in Salem requiring it.

Epilogue Kitchen and Cocktails is requiring vaccination for indoor diners starting Sept. 17, the restaurant announced on Facebook.

Mignano said there’s no way to get through the pandemic unless a majority of people get vaccinated.

“It’s a community thing, it’s not about us individuals anymore,” she said.

Mignano said the cafe decided to wait at least two weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer Covid vaccine.

She said Black Sheep has gotten a lot of support, with people sending cards in the mail “saying we see you, we support you, you’re doing the right thing for our community.”

But there’s also been the negative.

“I didn’t expect to be getting phone calls from people outside of Eugene just to call us Nazis,” she said.

Mignano said she’s most concerned about people who are immunocompromised for whom the vaccine won’t be as effective. She said all of her staff are vaccinated, but they could still contract Covid and spread it to someone who isn’t.

“We’re doing this looking out for our community,” she said. “We’re not trying to hurt people’s feelings or tread on anyone’s rights.”

She said most people have family members or friends who for whatever reason have chosen not to get vaccinated.

“It’s really, really hard for any of us to approach even our loved ones trying to get them to do the right thing without coming off as being mean or demanding,” she said.

Mignano said the café didn’t want to alienate its customers, but many of its patrons are elderly and got vaccinated a long time ago.

She said there have been people who have felt safer dining in knowing that Black Sheep would be requiring vaccination.

Mignano said she hopes the business’ decision helps spur a conversation in the community about why vaccination is important and for other businesses to encourage vaccination.

If you are a Salem restaurant that’s requiring your customers be vaccinated to dine in, we want to hear from you. Reach out to [email protected]

This article was updated to reflect an additional restaurant requiring proof of vaccination.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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