It’s the history of his Black ancestors that Courtney Esteen attributes to the distrust the Black community has about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Esteen, owner of Flavors Daiquiri Cafe in Tyler, was inspired by this issue and decided to do something to help.

“To give back to the community, if you bring your vaccination card in, you can get a free appetizer on any given day. If you don’t want to redeem your appetizer like today, we can give you a card and you can come by any given time,” Esteen said.

To qualify for the free appetizer or free sample of a daiquiri, you must be fully vaccinated. You must bring your photo ID and your vaccination card to redeem the free treats.

Appetizers that qualify for the promotion include cheese sticks, onion rings, French fries, stuffed jalapenos, loaded fries, nachos and fried pickles.

“We know what not having the vaccination does to you. If you’re not vaccinated, the possibility of you being hospitalized and/or dead are behind it. We know that getting vaccinated helps minimize that risk. It’s about bringing awareness to the community and giving back. Me giving a free appetizer is nothing compared to what the actual vaccine does for us all,” Esteen said.

Since running the promotion, Esteen was inspired to get vaccinated himself. Two weeks ago, he received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I had my doubts as well. Just to be kind of open, in the Black community, there’s been some things that happened with the vaccinations back in the day, that people really don’t trust it,” he said.

Esteen said his own family and friends have said they refuse to receive the vaccine.

“But let’s use common sense. When we look around at the vaccination location and there’s Blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians all getting that same shot at the same location, then let’s put the rest aside and be serious about it,” Esteen said.

When he got his vaccine, he was told to take a Tylenol to avoid soreness the next day.

“That didn’t help. My arm was sore. The shot itself, I didn’t even feel it. I was pretty scared. You know, guys are mostly scared of needles. So I turned away and she was like ‘You’re done,’ and I was like, ‘Oh that wasn’t nothing,’” Esteen said.

The promotion is running through the month of April.

“It’s my effort to lead the pack,” he said.

Since he began running the promotion, Esteen’s family members have also been motivated and more open to also getting vaccinated.

“I’m going home this weekend in New Orleans. My grandpa, he turns 100 years old Sunday. He got vaccinated. My mom, she’s in her 60s, she got vaccinated. My other grandma, she’s in her 80s, she got vaccinated. So for me, it’s more about showing them support as well. They’re trying to lead by example to show us, but we have to do our part, too, and show them,” Esteen said.

“Hopefully when I go home this weekend, I can convince my nieces and nephews to go get vaccinated and just put aside the stuff the naysayers are saying,” he said.

Esteen said that at the end of the day, everyone has loved ones who will be affected by those who are not getting vaccinated.

“I look at it this way, if I’m vaccinated, I’m protecting myself from you and protecting you from me and it’s an even exchange,” he said.

Esteem is also encouraging his employees to get vaccinated. Some of them have already received their first dose.

After learning Esteen was offering a free daiquiri at Flavors to vaccinated people, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission informed him he couldn’t offer the alcoholic beverage to only a certain group.

However, Esteem still wants to continue to positively influence his community and give back to them for doing something responsible.

He will continue to offer a free appetizer to those who bring in their vaccination cards after being fully vaccinated. Free daiquiri samples are available as well.

Flavors Daiquiri Cafe is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Friday. Flavors is located in {span}3502 South Broadway Ave. in Tyler. {/span}On Saturday, the cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., when they usually have live music or a DJ.