A German coffeehouse chain landed in hot water after it offered free beverages to unvaccinated patrons at its Berlin shops. The stunt was in response to stricter lockdown measures that came into force last weekend.
The '2G-plus' rules came into force in the German capital last Saturday, restricting access to most public venues to people vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who have recovered from the disease.
On Tuesday, the franchise Wonder Waffles posted an ad on its social media pages, announcing that it was offering free coffee to unvaccinated clients. A small-print text section added that the offer actually applied to to-go orders by all patrons regardless of their vaccination status.
The promotion was a gesture of concern over the 2G rules and how they meant that "we are no longer allowed to welcome so many regular guests," the message said.
The ad landed Wonder Waffles right in the middle of heated debate in Germany over vaccine mandates and whether the authorities were overstepping their boundaries in the effort to get people vaccinated.
Apparently uncomfortable with the situation, the chain deleted the message and posted a new one on Wednesday, saying social media was not the right platform to have that debate. While the chain stands for freedom of expression, it didn't want its shops to be the target of review bombing, the statement said. The offer of free coffee for everyone remains in place till the end of December.
Another shop that inserted itself into the vaccine row is San Sebastian, located in Berlin's Charlottenburg area. It too offers free complimentary coffee to anyone who buys cakes, regardless of their vaccination status. According to the newspaper Tagesspiegel, customers reacted positively to the campaign, which the owner says was launched because people with differing opinions must not be marginalized.