The president of an organization whose mission is to "advance practical, free-market policies that promote prosperity and opportunity for all" can understand why restaurant owners in New Hampshire are now requiring patrons to provide their contact information in addition to their names before they can sit down to eat.
Governor Chris Sununu (R) says a person's name and contact information are now deemed necessary in the event someone in the restaurant has COVID-19. The customers' time of arrival will also be recorded.
"In general, our organization is not in favor of state mandates on businesses," says Drew Cline, president of The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. "However, this is a situation where the restaurants were being severely hurt by clusters."
Before this policy, requested by the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association, went into effect, there was no contact tracing.
"So what would happen is a restaurant would have a cluster associated with it and the state because there was no contact tracing at the restaurant, would have to make a public announcement to say if you ate at this restaurant on this day or between these days, you need to contact the state, as you might be infected," explains Cline.
So the restaurant owners asked the state to help them give restaurant goers some confidence that restaurants would be safe. The situation was literally closing down those restaurants and hurting the entire industry because people were scared to go out to eat.
The restaurants will keep customers' contact information for 21 days. If there is no outbreak in that time, then the information will be thrown away. Meanwhile, it is supposed to remain confidential, and Cline does not think restaurant owners are likely to sell anyone’s information.
"If a restaurant tells you that it's not going to use it for marketing and then uses it for marketing, that is going to hurt their business, and they know it," he asserts.
That is not to say that the rare "unscrupulous restauranteur" would not do that. But on the whole, Cline says they know it would not be in their best interest to do that to their patrons.