Want to Get Into Hop Sing When It Reopens? Get Ready to Show Proof of Vaccination

"We can't emphasize enough that it is not a political statement of any kind," says Lê, Hop Sing's owner.

Hop Sing Laundromat owner Lê, who says he plans to require proof of vaccine for entry into the cocktail bar

Hop Sing Laundromat owner Lê, who says he plans to require proof of vaccine for entry into the cocktail bar (Photo by Justin James Muir)

Last week, we ran a story about the potential for businesses and events to require proof of COVID vaccination for entry, and we spoke to the owner of one popular Philadelphia bar who wished to remain nameless. He told us he planned to make customers show their COVID vaccination cards when he reopened sometime after July 1st.

The reactions to this story broke down three ways:

1) This is the best idea ever.
2) Hell no.

Well, on Tuesday, the owner of said bar decided to come forward and explain himself a bit further.

The bar in question is Chinatown’s storied Hop Sing Laundromat, which Esquire named one of the 27 best bars in America in 2019. And the owner is the mysterious and mononymous Lê.

When we spoke with Lê last week, he made it quite clear that he’d require proof of vaccination at the door. This week, when asked to go on the record, he softened that a bit.

“Our establishment currently does not have a firm reopening date,” Lê told us via email. “As of right now, we are leaning toward proof of vaccination whenever we reopen, but that could change if the pandemic turned the corner.”

According to Lê, he polled his staff and regulars to ask them if they thought he should require proof of vaccination, the same way he requires government-issued identification and dress-code compliance, and the answer was a unanimous yes.

While proof of vaccination and, hell, the COVID vaccine itself have somehow turned into political theater, Lê insists this isn’t about politics for him.

“We can’t emphasize enough that it is not a political statement of any kind,” he told us. “However, our staff is mentally prepared to be cursed at … on a good day and [endure] racist or homophobic comments on an okay day from those individuals with a sense of entitlement. But if you look on the bright side of things, if these people would say stupid stuff like that at the gate, then there’s no reason they should be drinking in the first place, so the staff look at it as a silver lining.”

Lê is well known for his strict enforcement of the ID requirement: no government-issued ID, no entry. And no exceptions. But these COVID cards are just a small piece of paper that a middle-schooler could easily replicate at home, and there’s no national standard for what they should be. There’s no raised seal. No watermark. There’s nothing official at all about them. So we wondered how Lê would actually enforce a proof-of-vaccination requirement when the cards themselves are a bit of a joke.

“There’s an old saying: ‘Locks are only for honest people,'” Lê responded. “So there’s not much you can do if someone wants to print these CDC cards. … ”

So if everybody inside Hop Sing Laundromat is going to be vaccinated, at least purportedly, we can all crowd in there shoulder-to-shoulder and party the night away, right? Wrong.

“Hop Sing Laundromat, as you know, has one of the most spacious seating arrangements in Philadelphia,” Lê said. (It’s true.) “And we’ll reduce another 40 to 50 percent [of our] seats, even if we are allowed to sit at 100 percent capacity, when we reopen. And we’ll keep it that way until 2022. If we ended up asking for vaccination proof, then we would like for you to know that we don’t do it so we can pack guests in ‘sardine style’ and we are doing it because our guests’ and our employees’ safety is the most important thing to us.”

As the interview concluded, he asked to add: “We would like to end this interview with a statement, if we are allowed to…we would like to take this opportunity to send our thoughts to anyone who has lost a loved one to this terrible virus. Thank you.”