by Asal Rezaei and Mugo Odigwe
CHICAGO (CBS) — Monday brings big changes for restaurants and many other businesses in Chicago and most of the Cook County suburbs, as a vaccination mandate goes into effect.
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In Chicago and most of suburban Cook County, restaurants, bars, gyms, entertainment venues, and anywhere else that serves food and drinks will require proof of vaccination for anyone five and older. If you’re 16 or older you also must show ID that matches your vaccination card.
Many restaurant owners who have spoken with CBS 2 say they have been prepared, but others wish they had more time to prepare for this with both getting employees vaccinated and implementation with customers. . The vaccination requirement applies to all restaurants’ customers and employees, although employees can opt out if they undergo weekly testing.
It has not come without a bit of pushback from restaurants in both the city and some suburbs. Last week, the Chicago Restaurant Coalition delivered a formal request to the mayor’s office, asking to extend the deadline to Jan. 15, along with a request for federal money to help impalement the changes that come with this mandate.
CBS 2 reached out to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office, but they did not say anything specifically on extending that deadline. The restaurant coalition said it does not think any restaurants should be cited until at least Jan. 15 to give them more time.
Roger Romanelli with the Chicago Restaurants Coalition said it is a day that will go down in the history books.
“Tomorrow January 3 is going to be a historic day in Chicago. First of all, our restaurants are going to work very hard to keep people safe,” he said. “That is a huge request from City Hall to our restaurants, restaurants are frustrated. Our restaurants are understaffed, and frankly, the restaurants need funding from City Hall and the federal government to get through this crisis.”
Romanelli said the mandate came with such short notice that restaurant owners are scrambling to get things in order for Monday morning.
“I honestly don’t know how to anticipate what’s going to happen,” said Sam Randazzo, director of operations at Carnivale restaurant in the West Loop.
Randazzo said one word best sums up his feelings on the vaccine mandate: anxiety.
“There is a little bit of the concern, yeah, of people who, you know, aren’t anticipating following the mandate or may not get allowed entry. Sure, it’s gonna be difficult, and probably a little frustrating on their part,” he said. “You know, COVID is real and it’s all around us, but I think just taking the precautions to keep everybody safe is probably the way we’re looking at this.”
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He said it’s especially difficult that typically gets 700 to 800 customers on a normal weekday. It’s why they already have a plan in place.
“Right when you walk in, you go up a few stairs and right there we’ll be checking the vaccination cards and IDs,” Randazzo said.
Heading to a restaurant in the West Loop, Annette Gonzalez said she is one customer who will be happy to comply.
“I get it. I mean it’s better to be safe than sorry,” she said.
She said complying will also help the restaurants that are already going through a lot.
“You know the servers are working hard in there and the staff, you know they don’t need anymore issues,” she said.
There will be mandatory COVID-19 testing weekly for employees who are not vaccinated. The city has said inspectors will be checking in on businesses, and those who do not comply can face fines anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000.
It comes at a time when restaurants are already short staffed in the midst of this public health crisis. Some are saying they simply need more time.
“I think what restaurants what is just fair reciprocity,” said Kevin Boehm with the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “They want to say, ‘Hey we’re going to do our part. We’re going to make it as safe as possible, but help us on the other hand so it doesn’t kill our business and at the same time lose jobs for all these hard working people.”
Starting Monday restaurants will accept either a photocopy of a vaccination card or even a clear photo of it on a phone.
There are some exemptions for the proof of vaccination requirement, such as if you’re inside a business for less than 10 minutes to pick up a carryout order or use the restroom.
People who have been granted a religious or medical exemption from vaccination by their employer will be exempt, but must show proof of the exemption, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours.
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Also exempt are:
- Nonresident performing artists who do not regularly perform or render services in a covered location, or a nonresident individual accompanying such a performing artist, while the performing artist or individual is in a covered location for the purposes of such artist’s performance;
- Nonresident professional athletes or a nonresident individuals accompanying such professional athletes, who enter a covered location as part of their regular employment for purposes of the professional athlete/sports team competition;
- Anyone under age 18 who enters a covered location to participate in an activity organized by a school or after-school program offered by any pre-kindergarten through grade twelve public or non-public school; and
- Individuals who enter for the purposes of voting in a municipal, state, or federal election; or, pursuant to law, assisting or accompanying a voter or observing such election.