North Bay restaurant group spending $21K to encourage employees to get vaccinated

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- A North Bay restaurant group is investing $21,000 in cash gift cards in hopes that its employees will get vaccinated. But will the cash reward lottery be enough incentive to get the shot? The move seems to be working already.

A busy Sunday brunch crowd at Grossman's Noshery restaurant in Santa Rosa, where the topic of conversation at Karen's table was vaccinations.

"I've been vaccinated, anything we can do to get our community healthier is a good thing," said Karen Fleming.

Grossman's - one of seven Sonoma County eateries owned by the Stark Reality Restaurant Group, employing about 475 people. Getting all of them vaccinated is the hope.

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"Most of our employees have been vaccinated but there are a few still hesitant," said Grossman's General Manager Jenn Maly.

About 59 employees haven't gotten the shot, so management had an idea, a cash incentive.

"Each restaurant is giving away three $1,000 gift cards as a lottery," Maly added.

Employees who want to enter the lottery need to be fully vaccinated by the end of August.

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"Before, I didn't want it," said Wilfred Jeromino.

A thousand bucks gave Jeronimo enough incentive to get his first shot but he says, it's about more than that.

"Right now, I want to save my life and my family's too," he said.

The restaurant group is trying to avoid making vaccinations a requirement or workers, they say they got the idea for cash prizes from the Governor.

Last spring, the state handed out big cash prizes in its 'Vax for the Win' drawing, before California's June 15 reopening. Anyone who got at least one vaccine dose was eligible.

RELATED: California holds 2nd 'Vax for the Win' drawing, announces 15 winners

With cases of the Delta variant increasing in Sonoma County, a cash incentive isn't so bad.

"The idea is, we just want everybody to be safe and healthy," said Maly.

Like Michelle Kerwin, who supports vaccinations for restaurant workers.

The restaurant group's cash drawing is September 1.

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