Hostess attacked outside NYC restaurant after asking for proof of COVID-19 vaccination, police say

NEW YORK CITY — Three tourists are facing charges in New York City after authorities said they attacked a restaurant hostess after she asked them for proof of COVID-19 vaccination -- a requirement to dine-in at establishments in the city -- according to multiple reports.

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The incident happened around 5 p.m. Thursday outside Carmine’s Italian Restaurant on the Upper West Side, WNBC reported. Cellphone video obtained by the news station showed the hostess’ stand being nearly tipped over in the chaos.

Police told The New York Times that three women, identified as 44-year-old Kaeita Nkeenge Rankin and 21-year-old Tyonnie Keshay Rankin, of Humble, Texas, and 49-year-old Sally Rechelle Lewis, of Houston, began punching the hostess after arguing with her about the vaccination requirement. The attack left the hostess bruised and scratched and broke her necklace, though she refused medical attention, according to the Times and WABC.

Police arrested the tourists on charges of assault and criminal mischief, the Times reported.

The incident happened days after the city began requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for anyone dining indoors. The “Key to NYC Pass” mandate went into effect Sept. 13.

>> Related: Coronavirus: NYC to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining and gyms

In a statement obtained by WABC, a spokesperson for Carmine’s condemned the attack.

“It’s a shocking and tragic situation when one of our valued employees is assaulted for doing their job -- as required by city policies -- and trying to make a living,” the statement said. “Our focus right now is caring for our employee and the rest of our restaurant family. We are a family-style restaurant, and this is the absolute last experience any of our employees should ever endure and any customers witness.”

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, urged the city to do more to protect restaurant workers in a statement obtained by the Times.

“Assaulting a restaurant worker for doing their job is abhorrent and must be punished,” Mr. Rigie said. “We’re calling on the City and State of New York to immediately increase penalties for assaulting restaurant workers in New York City in conjunction with enforcement of Covid-19 protocols.”