Chicago imposes restaurant and bar vaccines for customers and workers

In response to the growing omicron variant, Chicago will join New York, San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia by requiring vaccinations for customers and employees of restaurants and bars, as of January 3. Hospitality workers will have the option to produce a negative COVID-19 test every week if they are not vaccinated.

News of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s intentions was leaked Monday evening, and at a press conference on Tuesday, December 21, the mayor revealed that people as young as 5 years old will need to be fully vaccinated and those 16 and older. most will need to produce government ID along with their proof of vaccination. Lightfoot said the Jan. 3 deployment is designed to give the service industry time to talk to workers and prepare to comply.

The list of locations basically covers wherever “food and drink is served,” Lightfoot said. Gyms, bowling alleys, billiard halls, theaters, concert halls and sports arenas are included. The order includes weddings and other private events, Lightfoot added. Places of worship, soup kitchens and places where charity is the main mission are exempt, as are the international airports of Midway and O’Hare. Restaurants and bars could face fines of $ 2,000 to $ 10,000 for non-compliance.

The city‘s mandate requires clients to be fully immunized as per the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition: two weeks after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. . Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady said the city will update the mandate if the CDC ultimately decides that “fully vaccinated” means receiving a booster.

Nationally, the omicron variant accounts for about 73% of COVID-19 cases, and although a breakdown is not available, Arwady says she believes the number is higher in the Midwest. Omicron is three times more contagious than the delta variant, and although the vaccine is not completely inoculated – no vaccine offers 100 percent protection – it prevents strong protection against serious disease.

If a visitor comes in to pick up an order, make a delivery or use the washroom, they will have 10 minutes before they need to comply, Ken said. Meyer, head of the city’s Department of Business and Consumer Protection (BACP). Quick coffee to go? No need to show a photo or vaccination card, says Lightfoot, but if a client plans to linger with their laptop, they’d better bring proof. Grocery store shoppers do not need to show proof unless they sit down for a snack or drink in places that have food courts, bars, or other eating areas. The 10 minute rule would apply to venerable Chicago hybrid liquor store bars (good stores / packaged slashies).

The 10-minute rule also provides that third-party platforms do not experience any failure, as the engines of Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats wouldn’t need to provide proof.

Lightfoot said the focus will be on business owner compliance rather than the customer, and added that she expects law enforcement to work the same as BACP inspectors cracked down on capacity limits in the summer of 2020. The city is reporting a dire situation where the 7.3% positivity rate is the highest since vaccines became available earlier in 2021. The city said this reflects a huge jump from last week when the rate was 4.1%.

Since the summer, when the delta variant has become dominant, restaurants and bars in the city have instituted their own mandates. This decision was up to owners to believe they had a social responsibility during a public health crisis, and that a vaccine requirement would be a boon to businesses, which would make customers feel more secure.

“A lot of our restaurants and bars ask us to do this,” Lightfoot told reporters.

There are also tax concerns, with some believing that vaccination warrants would cost restaurants and bars paying customers. It’s also possible that restaurants and bars need to hire additional staff to serve as ‘vaccine bouncers’ – and finding workers has been a challenge for the hospitality industry during the pandemic. That type of thinking is nonsense, says Pete Ternes, co-owner of Middle Brow Beer Co. Ternes says customers at his Logan Square brewery have responded enthusiastically to the brewery’s requirement for voluntary vaccines.

“Look, I don’t know what it is in Springfield or Rockford or near the Iowa border where it’s possible a lot of people won’t get vaccinated and restaurants could lose a huge amount of money. money, ”says Ternes. “But in the Chicago environment, that will absolutely not hurt anyone’s bottom line.”

Lightfoot camp balked at New York City vaccination passport in August. The Lightfoot camp argued that a program like the New York Excelsior Pass would never come to Chicago. The Illinois Restaurant Association has refrained from taking a position on a vaccination mandate, only strongly encouraging customers and workers to take their vaccines.

Meanwhile, Ternes says he wants the association to be a stronger advocate for the mandate, as it would have helped create a uniform playing field for restaurants statewide. Ternes understands that critics may argue that restaurants near suburban borders will be at a disadvantage, as those who oppose vaccination mandates may choose to move their business to a nearby town. The same scenario was suggested when Chicago restricted alcohol sales in the spring.

One of those suburbs, Evanston, is home to Amy Morton’s Found and the Barn. Morton says the reaction has been fairly positive at Found, who has required a vaccine since November. While Chicago restaurants can be busy in December due to holiday gatherings, Evanston’s are notoriously quiet, Morton says, but this season his restaurant has been as busy as ever for the month. Morton says fewer people are leaving their homes to take trips to the city center, preferring to spend a night in the suburbs. Needing a vaccine did not negatively impact his business.

Morton says his other two restaurants, The Barn and his most recent, Stolp Island Social in Aurora, will need vaccines starting Jan. 2. Morton, who calls his staff “players,” studied acting. She compares the vaccination mandate to the advice given to her by one of her favorite teachers. Even though there are criticisms, it’s important to follow common sense when washing your hands, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated.

“You have to play in front of the only intelligent person in the audience,” Morton says.

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