Restaurants

‘I’m exhausted’: Nightshade Noodle Bar owner defends her proof of vaccination policy

"As soon as I try to have a conversation, I still continue to get attacked," Rachel Miller said.

Chef-owner Rachel Miller of Nightshade Noodle Bar in Lynn
Chef-owner Rachel Miller of Nightshade Noodle Bar in Lynn. Barry Chin / Globe staff

As the country witnessed an uptick in COVID-19 cases over the summer, along with the rise of the Delta variant, a handful of restaurants in the Boston area responded by requiring proof of vaccination for customers wanting to dine indoors. These decisions divided customers and chefs alike, prompting some diners to voice their concerns about having to show proof of vaccination when they go out to eat.

One restaurateur is taking a stance against those who are opposing her policy. On Sunday, Rachel Miller, chef and owner of Nightshade Noodle Bar in Lynn, posted a passionate Facebook post about dealing with the pushback she has received after requiring proof of vaccination at her restaurant.

“To be clear — each of you who have the time and energy to troll my Facebook accounts about our efforts to keep ourselves safer via our vaccination policy, as a deadly virus mutates and keeps killing people, will continue to be banned and blocked,” Miller wrote. “I am exhausted. I am not here to engage with all your backwoods perspectives bringing up hepatitis and your ‘lawyer” and the Holocaust and whatever other bull**** you think you came up with to intimidate me. People like you are a huge part of the reason restaurants can’t find staff right now. Nobody wants to deal with you. Nobody wants to feel threatened, by attitude or lack of vaccine, at their job. We are all doing our best and don’t deserve to feel unsafe or uncomfortable at work. The policy is not JUST ABOUT YOU or JUST ME. This is about RESPECT, FOR EVERYONE, AND PUBLIC HEALTH.”

Miller went on to share that the restaurant was “My house, my private business to do with what I think is right, my rules. End of story,” and that diners who don’t agree are free to take their business elsewhere.

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A flood of encouraging responses followed, and Miller told Boston.com that 99 percent of diners have been supportive since she first established the policy on Aug. 5. But she said the remaining one percent have been aggressive, harassing Miller online with general threats, messages encouraging her business to fail, and accusations of discrimination. She said there are “people calling me a Nazi.”

“I try to talk to a few of them and it’s not worth it,” she said. “I don’t want to encourage it and I don’t have time for any of this. As soon as I try to have a conversation, I still continue to get attacked. That’s just when I start to block [people].”

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Miller said she implemented the proof of vaccination policy after seeing restaurants she looked up to around the country adopting it, and because she wanted to protect her staff. It also helps bring in clientele who share the same values.

“Everyone who isn’t vaccinated — who can be but won’t be, who haven’t been masking up and haven’t been contributing to the greater good and just working against the grain of this pandemic — I don’t really want to cook for them,” Miller said. “I don’t want them in the restaurant.”

Like the majority of the restaurant industry, staffing during the pandemic has remained a significant issue. Miller said that since Nightshade enacted the policy, it has received more applications from potential employees who are looking to work in a safe environment, but that the restaurant is still currently staffed at half of its usual workforce.

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“Ultimately, one of the concerns that we hear across the board is service folks feeling ill-equipped to deal with the sort of confrontation on the floor,” Miller said. “Even though we rarely have any sort of [negative] interaction in the dining room or in the work space, it’s still a topic, and it’s still a concern. I don’t think I’ve interviewed anyone who hasn’t felt exhausted by it already.”

Miller is exhausted, too. She said that everyone at Nightshade is wearing at least two or three different hats each day.

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“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to work two stations every single day and then be this social media warrior, and then also do my actual job. It’s crushing.”

Nightshade Noodle Bar is currently requiring diners seated indoors to show proof of vaccination in the form of a vaccine card, a photo of the card, or other official documentation proving vaccine status. Diners who sit outside are not required to show proof of vaccination.

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