Since the start of the pandemic that's killed more than 850 thousand Americans, the Republican party has repeatedly downplayed the severity of COVID-19, painting public safety guidelines as tyrannical and characterizing lifesaving vaccines as dangerous mechanisms of federal control.
The consequences have been deadly. Trump, who led the party in dismissing the threat posed by the pandemic, continued holding packed rallies, most of which were maskless, thanks to his early disavowal of mask-wearing. One Stanford study found these rallies led to at least 30 thousand COVID cases. He also pushed bogus treatments like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, despite no proven efficacy in preventing or treating COVID-19.
This dismissal of public safety efforts trickled down from the Oval Office to Trump's supporters in Congress and state legislatures, and—eventually—down to private citizens. Viral videos of right-wingers burning masks, destroying mask displays, and demanding to be served despite no proof of vaccination have become ubiquitous in the pandemic's nearly three years.
Some businesses have even made it a brand. A gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey went viral in the MAGA-verse for refusing to close during the lockdowns, and for offering free memberships to those who don't get vaccinated. The gym's owner is now running for Congress. A bar in D.C. that's openly refused to enforce the District's vaccine mandates for patrons was flooded with support from Republican representatives after the Health Department moved to shut it down.
But Vessel Taphouse, a pirate-themed bar and live music venue in Washington state, took these stances to an even more deranged level with a recent promotion encouraging customers to bring a positive COVID-19 test for discounted tickets.
The bar wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post:
"Come see the show, maybe catch the virus, or just stay home and whine ... Tickets 10 bucks or 6 with proof of omicron positive test. Have you had enough???"
But it was Taphouse's staff and bands who had enough, and owner Steve Hartley, who said the post was an “an ill-advised attempt at humor," confirmed to the Daily Herald that four staff members quit and three bands canceled their engagements. The staff member who made the Facebook post has also been fired.
Seattle-based Atrocity Girl was one of the headliners to pull out, elaborating on the decision in a Facebook post emphasizing they "do not think COVID is a joke."
Social media users were enraged at the bar's promotion.
Locals vowed never to patronize the bar.
There's a chance this pirate bar may get back in the public's good graces, but the process is sure to be arrrrrrduous.