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.
Oh FFS, the whole ‘it was a joke and the person has been fired’ thing isn’t an excuse for posting something absolutely ridiculous and oh look it cost you staff and revenue. https://t.co/RxfbQmjyTw
— ☃️ 🎄Carrie ⭐️⭐️ ↙️↙️↙️ (@c_v) January 31, 2022
Poor attempt at a “joke,” or cynical imitation of the “chickenpox parties” some people experienced as kids — either way this Washington State bar has a PR crisis on its hands. #COVID19 https://t.co/BTxSEWV73x
— Holly (@HollyBlomberg) January 30, 2022
Why go to a bar like this and catch a potentially deadly disease when I can drink a lot cheaper at home and watch whatever tf I want?https://t.co/QXrWOYhx4s
— Crankster McGee, an ol' Ph.D. (@EvOutWest) January 31, 2022
We'd probably be out of this if more people stopped thinking this was all a joke. https://t.co/XwNwreTWti
— Stephen (@a00link) February 1, 2022
Locals vowed never to patronize the bar.
Well, that cool-looking pirate-themed bar in #Lynnwood I've wanted to visit is never getting my patronage. F'n people. https://t.co/qgwLRPoEy4
— Randy 'DUO' Mongenel (@RandyMongenel) January 31, 2022
I both found out that there's a pirate bar near me and that I have to boycott it at the same time. 🙁https://t.co/N4b0h0snyw
— Mariah💫 (@wine_mariah) January 29, 2022
I pass this bar daily. I’m always promising Mom we’ll pop in for a beer. No longer.
Lynnwood pirate bar faces mutiny over ‘catch the virus’ show - https://t.co/lmDWjD5Kez
— Wishing i was 18 again... (@scollan_ruth) February 1, 2022
There's a chance this pirate bar may get back in the public's good graces, but the process is sure to be arrrrrrduous.