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Indianapolis restaurateur pushes for vaccinations for restaurant workers

Martha Hoover, who owns 12 restaurants in Indianapolis, is urging the governor to include restaurant employees on the list to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

INDIANAPOLIS — Every industry wants to see their workers get vaccinated right away. 

In Kentucky, teachers are lining up to get their shots. In New York, restaurant workers are now rolling up their sleeves. That's what a well-known Indianapolis restaurateur wants to see here.

Martha Hoover owns 12 restaurants in Indianapolis, including Cafe Patachou, Napolese and Public Greens. Like others in hospitality, Hoover has taken a big hit. She has temporarily closed three places with the rest operating at half-capacity and a fraction of the 400 employees she had pre-pandemic. 

"Public policy has really decimated the restaurants in Indianapolis and impacted the millions of workers in the industry and we need protection," Hoover said.

After New York City this week deemed restaurant workers essential and eligible to be vaccinated, Hoover took to Instagram, urging Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to "come on and lead." She asked, "where is the access to vaccines for the good people of Indiana you glibly speak about at every opportunity, the good people who work in food service?"

As Hoover pointed, out unlike many others in the workforce, restaurant workers can't call in or work from home.

"You cannot Zoom in a restaurant," she said. "We're not office workers who can do what they need to do from anywhere and become digital nomads. We have to be in restaurants to do our jobs."

And restaurants, of course, are public places, so even with limits on capacity, mask requirements and social distancing, there's still a risk.

"We want not only to protect our workers, we also want to protect our customers," Hoover said, adding that vaccinating hospitality workers would also "bolster consumer confidence that restaurants are safe places."

Credit: WTHR

When 13News reached out to the governor's office to get his response, a spokesperson referred us to Wednesday's weekly COVID-19 briefing where the governor and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box addressed the challenges and priorities.

"As long as the vaccine supplies remain limited, we will continue to prioritize individuals most likely to be hospitalized or die of COVID-19," Box said.

That includes those over 65, long-term care residents, healthcare workers and first responders.

Hoover said she and the Indiana Restaurant Association will continue to lobby on behalf of adding those who work in food service to the list.

"It's time to advocate for the entire industry," she said. "Restaurants are open, grocery stores are open and no one is protecting the industry...It's time there's more of a public outcry about this."

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