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Another Arkansas restaurant requires customers to show proof of COVID vaccination

Amid a growing trend of COVID-19 cases, Trio's in Little Rock has become the latest restaurant to require customers to show proof of vaccination to enter.

A popular Little Rock restaurant is requiring customers to show proof of vaccination for COVID-19. Trio’s, which is located on Cantrell Road, made the announcement Monday. In addition to mandating that people show vaccination cards to dine indoors, customers will also be required to wear masks.

Capi Peck, who serves on the Little Rock Board of Directors and is co-owner of Trio’s, says the recent uptick of cases, and advice from another city director, prompted her to implement the requirement.

“I understand that 88% of people in the hospitals have not been vaccinated,” Peck said in an interview. “This is happening around the country. Other restaurants and facilities are doing it. I have been communicating with Dr. Dean Kumpuris, who’s on our local COVID task force and I serve on the city board with him, and he’s been guiding me every step of the way about what to do. His advice was to require a vaccination.”

Peck has relied on Kumpuris to answer any questions customers may have about the new requirement. One customer wondered why she had to still wear a mask even though she was fully vaccinated. According to Peck, Kumpuris said requiring people to wear masks can offer a little more protection against several COVID-19 variants.

Peck said regular customers have told her they’re happy about the requirement. People who had not eaten inside a restaurant in almost 20 months said they felt comfortable eating at Trio’s with the new vaccine requirement being enforced, she said. 90% of her customers have said they support the precaution, Peck said.

However, she said there has also been a lot of negative feedback in which some people have even called her staff “Nazis.”

“There are lots and lots of haters out there,” Peck said. “They’re very organized and they seem to be calling or emailing or posting on social media kind of from a script. It’s the same verbiage—that this is discrimination, that we’re communists and all sorts of other nasty names.”

According to Peck, most of the criticism is coming from people who are not her regular customers.

“I don’t recognize their names,” Peck said. “A lot of them are not even in town, but they’re just slamming us saying they hope our business fails.”

Instead of ignoring the condemnation, Trio’s is responding to it and allowing people to voice their opinions because Peck said everyone is entitled to their views. Despite the overwhelming criticism, Peck said she will remain confident in her decision.

“I’m listening to the advice of doctors here, science, and I know that the delta variant is very contagious and we don’t know about the new variant yet,” Peck said of the omicron variant. “So, I’m following Dr. Kumpuris’ advice and that’s good enough for me. He doesn’t tell me how to cook a steak and I don’t tell him how to address the pandemic.”

Michael Hibblen
The White Water Tavern in Little Rock sparked controversy in August when it reopened after being closed for 17 months with a proof of vaccination requirement to enter.

Trio’s joins the White Water Tavern and 42 Bar and Table at the Clinton Presidential Center in requiring customers to show vaccination cards. Peck said she hopes other restaurants will be influenced to enforce this requirement because it could boost business while allowing customers feel safe, especially during the holiday season.

“We’re bound to see a big uptick because it’s the holidays and people are pandemic weary,” Peck said. “They want to go out and celebrate and be with their families. We saw a big uptick after Thanksgiving. I just want us to all be around and be safe and healthy in the new year.”

Any customer who is not vaccinated will be limited to ordering to-go meals. Customers can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test as an alternative to a vaccination card. Peck says she hopes the negative feedback will eventually diminish.

Alexandria Brown is a news anchor and reporter for KUAR News. She was previously a Douthit scholar who interned for KUAR News. Alexandria will graduate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2022 in hopes of being a multimedia reporter.