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NYC eateries enticing staff to get COVID vaccine

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NYC eateries enticing staff to get COVID vaccine

Now that Big Apple restaurant workers are eligible for coronavirus vaccines, eatery owners are walking a fine line trying to encourage them. 

Shake Shack staffers get an extra six hours of pay to get jabbed. 

“While Shake Shack won’t be requiring vaccinations, we are strongly encouraging it,” a spokeswoman for the New York City-based burger chain told Side Dish. 

Starbucks is shelling out four hours’ pay to employees who get protected against the virus, as is McDonald’s at all of its corporate-owned outposts. 

It’s not just the big chains that are doing it. Smaller restaurateurs are also coming up with ways to encourage staffers to get the vaccine — ranging from a one-shot payment to time off without pay and assistance setting up appointments. 

Jeremy Wladis, president of The Restaurant Group, which operates Harvest Kitchen, Hachi Maki and Good Enough to Eat on the Upper West Side, is offering to pay his employees $25 each to get vaccinated. 

“I want everyone who is willing to be vaccinated. I think it is so important. It’s a good way to give back and to give people a few bucks and incentivize them to do something good. It will help the staff, the world and our business,” Wladis said, adding that he now has 65 staffers, down from around 100 pre-pandemic. 

It’s not something he wants to force on workers, however. 

“I don’t want to push it. You never know when you are stepping over that line,” Wladis said, adding that if some employees don’t take him up on his offer to pay them to get vaccinated, then “we certainly aren’t mentioning it.” 

Indeed, while it is perfectly legal for hospitality employers to require their staffers to get vaccinated, there are medical and religious-based exemptions that could lead to problems for employers without a full-time human-resources team, said James Mallios, a top restaurant lawyer and owner of Bar Marseille and Amali in New York City and Calissa in the Hamptons. 

“You can legally mandate people to get vaccinated, but it’s an HR nightmare to do it the right way,” Mallios said. 

“You have to make sure people are treated the same,” he added. “It sounds normal and intuitive, but it’s a lot of work, and I don’t have 30 hours a week to spare, so we decided we’d take a different approach — to positively encourage people to get vaccinated.” 

In the past, Mallios has paid for his employees to get flu shots. Now he’s paying for their travel and time to get the COVID-19 vaccine and setting up their appointments. Around 55 people work in all three restaurants, he added. 

In addition to the legal issues, many restaurant workers also don’t have health insurance. That could lead to problems if they’re forced to have the vaccine and end up having a reaction. 

“Forget the legality, just the guilt I would feel,” Mallios said. 

A recent survey suggests fears over side effects loom large among workers. According to the 2021 Hospitality Vaccination and Employment Status Report from Harri, a hospitality and retail recruiting Web site, 29 percent of 4,250 current and former hospitality workers surveyed said they would not get the vaccine, with 57 percent citing fears of side effects. 

“God forbid we tell them to do it and something happens and they have an allergic reaction. We could be liable,” said Stratis Morfogen, director of operations at the Brooklyn Chop House and Brooklyn Dumpling Shop. 

“But we are offering paid time off for the days they get it, and if they feel tired or discomfort, we’ll give them a paid sick day leave,” Morfogen said. 

Giselle and Roberto Deiaco of Avena in Greenwich Village and on the Upper East Side say their staffers are anxious to get vaccinated because they saw up close the danger of the coronavirus. 

“Everyone is eager to get vaccinated. I don’t need to incentivize them. Eighty percent of my staff had COVID-19 last March, and four of them had really bad cases where they were violently ill and thought they would die. They don’t want to go through that again,” Giselle Deiaco said of her 25 staffers. 

Still, she is doing what she can to help, including booking staffers’ appointments, providing them with documentation and giving them time off. 

“I wrote letters for them and helped book online appointments. I told them we will do whatever it takes for them to get the vaccine,” Deiaco added. 

“We are supportive and cooperative and give them time off. Everyone can’t wait to get it.” 

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El Salvador volcanoes to power bitcoin mining

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El Salvador volcanoes to power bitcoin mining

Bitcoin is red-hot in El Salvador — and the country says it plans to use power from its volcanoes to mine it.

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele — just hours after the country’s legislature approved the “Bitcoin Law,” making it the first to accept Bitcoin as legal tender — revealed Wednesday that the nation’s state-owned geothermal electric company will harness volcanic energy to mine the cryptocurrency.

Bukele said the country is already designing a mining hub that will use “very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable” energy from volcanoes to power the operation, which effectively would be a bank of super-powered computers that solve the complex mathematical equations required to mine Bitcoin.

“Our engineers just informed me that they dug a new well,” Bukele tweeted, saying it would generate 95 megawatts of energy — enough to power more than 500 homes for a year. “What you see coming out of the well is pure water vapor.”

Bukele — who is looking to lower transaction fees on the $6 billion in yearly remittances sent to its citizens from abroad — has yet, however, to reveal when the new operation will be live or how many Bitcoins he expects to be able to mine.

It’s been a bullish week for Bitcoin in El Salvador. The digital coin can now be used as payment for goods, services, and taxes in the public and private sector. Bitcoin rose 6 percent on the news, according to data from Coindesk.

According to a study by Cambridge University, Bitcoin mining consumes more energy per year than the Philippines. Elon Musk has met with Bitcoin miners about environmental concerns, recently citing them as he announced Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin as payment.

Details about the mining efforts and how El Salvador will widely adopt Bitcoin remain vague. The law states it will provide “the necessary training and mechanisms” to allow the 70 percent of its citizens that don’t have access to traditional banking services to understand how they can use Bitcoin but didn’t elaborate.

Still, Bukele remains an enthusiastic advocate for the currency and his mining project. Late Thursday he tweeted drone footage of the new mine with a rainbow in the background.

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China arrests 1,100 crypto users on money laundering charges

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China arrests 1,100 crypto users on money laundering charges

China’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies is heating up with a series of arrests that suggest digital currency users can be traced.

More than 1,100 people who allegedly used cryptocurrencies to launder profits from frauds were arrested Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. 

The busts involved 170 criminal groups who authorities say hired “coin farmers” to open crypto accounts after bank accounts they used for their alleged scams had been seized.

“The high illegal income attracts a large number of people to participate, causing serious social harm,” the ministry said of the alleged plots.

The arrests may cast further doubt on the supposed un-traceability of cryptocurrencies. On Tuesday, the price of bitcoin fell almost 12 percent after it was revealed that US authorities were able to reclaim most of a bitcoin ransom that Colonial Pipeline paid to hacker group DarkSide in May. 

“Criminals have been using bitcoin because of the supposed inability of governments to get at it,” Anthony Denier, CEO of trading platform Webull, told the Post on Tuesday. “If governments can claw it back, that hurts its appeal.” 

Wednesday’s arrests are part of a broader Chinese crackdown on crypto. They come less than a month after the government called for greater regulation of digital currencies.

A committee presided over by a member of China’s Politburo wrote in May that it is necessary to “crack down on bitcoin mining and trading behavior, and resolutely prevent the transmission of individual risks to the social field.” 

Worries about bitcoin’s traceability and the looming threat of government regulations have sent the cryptocurrency plummeting from its peak of more than $63,000 in April. Bitcoin was trading at about $37,600 Thursday morning. 

Additional reporting by Will Feuer

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Burger King flambes Chic-Fil-A online, donates to LGBTQ foundation

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Burger King flambes Chic-Fil-A online, donates to LGBTQ foundation

They just served them a double whopper.

Burger King may have lost the restaurant-chain battle, but they’re charging ahead in the sandwich wars: The burger monger flame-broiled queer-rights critic Chick-fil-A in a Pride Month tweet in which they pledged to donate the proceeds from their new chicken sandwich to an LGBTQ charity. The provocative post currently boasts over 7,000 likes online.

Burger King tweeted last week that 40 cents from every one of their new hand-breaded Ch’King sandwiches sold during June will go to the Human Rights Campaign, which is the world’s largest LGBTQ-rights organization, Fox News reported. BK will contribute up to $250,000, according to the tweet.

The patty purveyor doubled down with a shot at Chick-fil-A, writing that the deal is good “even on Sundays,” when the devoutly Christian chicken chain shuts its doors.

The verbal whopper comes after years of opposition to Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, which contributed millions to organizations that opposed same-sex marriage. In turn, that got the restaurant banned from several airports and schools across the country.

In 2019, Chick-fil-A announced that it would no longer donate to the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other groups that have been criticized for their stances on LGBTQ issues.

BK is surely hoping the charitable act will help give the chain a leg up in the ongoing battle for chicken-sandwich dominance, which Chick-fil-A is currently winning in terms of total sales.

The chicken-driven competition began in 2019, when Popeyes’ new sandwich sold out at many of its stores after just two weeks on the menu. 

Since then, the largest US fast-food chains, from KFC to Wendy’s, have introduced new chicken-laden menus or announced plans to do so.

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