On the last day of July, John Guggenmos stood by the entrance of Number Nine, one of the two gay bars he co-owns in D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood, because he thought his staff might need a little backup. D.C.’s reinstated indoor mask mandate went into effect that morning, and Number Nine was enforcing a new policy that required customers to prove they’d been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19 within the prior three days. Guggenmos wanted to be prepared to defuse any confrontations that might arise. He was relieved when none did.
“Hands down, if we had one person complain about it, we had 40 people applaud it,” Guggenmos says. “There were people that were like, ‘Oh my God, this is great. Let me text my friends a picture. Or tweet it out. It’s about time. Everybody needs to step up.’”
In the past two weeks, nearly 30 bars and restaurants across the city have begun requiring proof of vaccination for entry. As more businesses follow, a group of gay bars and dives have emerged as trendsetters by taking swift action to enforce a policy they say protects their service staff and their customers.