Billings restaurant owner Mary Jackson says she’s overwhelmed with the feedback she’s received after implementing a controversial policy at her business, Crazy Mary’s Fish & Chips on 6th Avenue North.
Jackson recently began requiring that all of her customers be vaccinated for COVID in order to dine inside the restaurant.
That decision has had a big impact on Jackson’s business. She says she’s received messages and phone calls from people all across the state, both supporting and disagreeing with her policy.
Some customers have also confronted Jackson outside of her restaurant. She recalls a recent encounter with a man who let his opinion be known while driving by the business.
“He told me where to fly, but he said it in other words,” Jackson said.
Despite pushback from some customers, however, Jackson says business hasn’t suffered.
“It tripled. It really, honestly, did,” Jackson said.
Jackson has numerous signs posted on her building letting people know that unvaccinated customers can place 'to go' orders. However, she knows she can’t legally kick someone out of her restaurant for not being vaccinated. She also isn’t asking to see vaccination cards.
“I can’t ask you for the card, and I’m not asking for the card. I’m just asking for you to be truthful. It’s the honor system. I know by law I can’t ask that,” she said.
Jackson knows mask mandates and vaccines are a political hot potato, but says that’s not her motivation for implementing the policy. For her, it’s personal. Jackson’s brother was just recently released from the hospital after being placed on a ventilator for several months because of COVID-19.
“He was hospitalized in July and he didn’t get out until December 8th, so he was in there a super long time,” Jackson said.
Jackson also says that she understands some customers have valid reasons for not supporting her vaccine policy.
She recently received a letter from one Montana woman that has consumed her thoughts for several days. The letter is now posted on the counter of her restaurant.
In the letter, the woman writes about several relatives who she says can’t receive the vaccine because of an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
“I pulled out the tissue because I feel for her, and I can relate to that,” Jackson said.
That is one more reason Jackson wants to make sure customers know her decision isn’t political. She acknowledges there is no perfect solution for business owners trying to navigate the pandemic.