Donut chain Krispy Kreme grabbed headlines across America last month when it announced that customers could receive a free doughnut a day just by vising a store with proof that they’d received a COVID-19 vaccination.
A smattering of other businesses have announced similar vaccine promotional deals, and the customer-facing efforts have emerged alongside a wave of business policies intended to encourage employee vaccination. Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Dollar General have offered paid time off to get vaccinated, and Fred Meyer parent company Kroger offered staff $100 in store credit for vaccinations.
Both trends have found their way to Clark County in recent weeks.
Vault 31, a gaming-focused bar in east Vancouver, has been offering free jello shots to customers who have gotten their jabs.
Liquor laws prevent the bar from giving away alcohol for free, so the recipients do have to be customers who have purchased something else, according to owner David Kaulitz. But aside from that, the only requirement is to bring a vaccine card.
“We’re giving away a lot — just about everybody that comes in,” he said. “It’s nice — it’s reassuring” to see that so many people have been vaccinated.
Taking their cue from Krispy Kreme, Vault 31 isn’t imposing any lifetime limits on the number of jello shots per customer — just a daily limit of one shot per person. The shots will continue until the pandemic is over, Kaulitz said.
Kaulitz said he thinks even small things like the jello shots can help motivate people to get their vaccines. The idea arose after he and his bar manager started to talk about possible items they could afford to offer as a vaccine promo.
“Jello’s really inexpensive, vodka’s really inexpensive, so a little bit of our time and boom, a treat,” he said.
At Niche Wine Bar in downtown Vancouver, owner Leah Jackson said she instituted a policy that would allow employees to leave work at a moment’s notice if they were notified that there were extra doses available at a nearby vaccination site, or if their own health care providers told them.
“Employees were signed up on different systems that would tell them if there was a vaccine available,” she said. “I told them they’d be able to just leave and run over and get their vaccine.”
Jackson said her goal was to reopen for indoor dining, but she had decided not to do so until the entire staff was vaccinated and had waited the requisite two weeks for full immunization. Everyone has had both shots at this point, she said, so indoor dining is set to resume May 8.
Hidden House Market owners David White and Elaine Frances decided to close down altogether until they and their staff are fully vaccinated. They had to close to get their first round of shots, White said, and decided to stay closed and take some time to retool their menu while they waited for the second round.
“We’re encouraging all our employees to do the same,” he said.
Even once they’re vaccinated, White said the market will probably stick with outdoor-only service until Clark County reaches herd immunity, taking advantage of the large tent they’ve added outside.
At the Vancouver nonprofit SELF (Support for Early Learning and Families), executive director Debbie Ham said the organization began offering one-time $150 stipends to fully vaccinated staff. The nonprofit employs about 150 people and was able to draw on funding received through an earlier Paycheck Protection Program loan to cover the cost of the bonuses. The incentive option was put in place about a month ago.
“At the that point, some but not all of our staff were eligible (to be vaccinated),” she said.
The incentive seems to be helping, she said; the pace of vaccination among SELF staff is picking up now that eligibility has expanded.