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Manatee County restaurant now requiring customers to be vaccinated

The owner says customers who call will only receive a reservation if vaccinated.

HOLMES BEACH, Fla. — The Beach Bistro on Holmes Beach is advertised as the “best little restaurant in Florida.” Now, owner Sean Murphy wants to be known for something else.

“I am hopeful that we are creating the safest restaurant in America,” said Murphy from his popular beachfront restaurant in Manatee County.

At the beginning of the pandemic, he says he was among the first to invest in special air filtration systems and began regular testing of his employees.

He then took the controversial step of requiring vaccinations among all of his staff. By July, all but a few employees complied.

RELATED: 'Get vaccinated, get tested': COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Manatee, Sarasota counties

“I offered them cash. Pleaded with them to keep my family safe and their family safe, told them I really didn’t want to lose them. I had to let go of two very, very talented people,” said Murphy.

Now with 100 percent of his employees vaccinated, he says there was only one thing left.

“The next logical step was to require vaccinations of the guests,” he said.

Here in Florida, his restaurant can’t legally require proof of vaccination but when customers call to make a reservation it’s one of the first questions asked.

RELATED: COVID-19 cases on the rise in Sarasota, Manatee and other Florida counties

“We ask you if you’ve been vaccinated,” said Murphy.  “If the answer is no then we ask that you call back after you’ve been vaccinated.”

The new policy has created quite the stir on social media, but Murphy believes it’s the right thing to do and he says customers are responding.

“People are calling and asking for reservations because they believe that my space is safe,” said Murphy. “I can look you in the eye when you come to the door with your 90-year-old grandmother, and I can say this is as safe as it gets.”

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