Although Chicago has not instituted a mask warrant, more and more restaurants and bars in the city are announcing changes to house rules, with many saying they will only serve customers who show proof of vaccination. Over the weekend, the city released new guidelines that recommend covering the face for everyone passing through indoor public places.
Restaurants braced for stricter rules as capacity restrictions and table spacing affect results. With the industry still in a financial daze since last year, many feared Chicago would bring back the old rules put in place during the peak of the pandemic.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady appeared at a rare press conference Sunday morning to explain the new mask guide, which matches the rules suggested last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The city has “no current goal or plan to shut down Chicago again,” Arwady said.
The mantra of the city is “we can be open and careful”.
These comments can make diners more comfortable eating in restaurants using proper precautions. Likewise, it could calm restaurateurs worried about more drastic rules on the horizon. Chicago’s restaurant scene saw a renaissance this summer when restrictions were lifted in June. Arwady described it as Chicago “enjoying a well-controlled COVID over the past few months.”
Yet Michael Roper, owner of Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville, posted an update on Facebook on Saturday writing that “another round of capacity restrictions and closures will spell the end for us and many of yours and our favorite dining, drinking and entertainment venues.”
“Since CDC vaccination cards are easily copied and counterfeited anyway, we are not going to make them a condition of entry at this time,” the post read. “However, if you are not vaccinated, please stay away. If you have symptoms, stay home.
Vaccine cards were apparently for sale over the weekend to get unvaccinated Lollapalooza fans through the gates of Grant Park. Like at Windy City Smokeout, held earlier in July outside the United Center, festival staff weren’t checking names on the cards. At Sunday’s press conference, Lightfoot praised the music festival staff for working with health experts in the city. Although she did not quote the source of her figures, Lightfoot said 90% of the participants had been vaccinated.
For now, Cole’s Bar in Logan Square cancels his comedy evenings after a vaccinated client informs them that they were infected. Operators said the bar was “reinstating social distancing protocols” even though staff had tested negative.
On Sunday, 2Bears Tavern Group (Meeting House Tavern, The Sofo Tap) sent an email saying that from Tuesday its bars will need proof – either a vaccine card, copy or photo of one, or recording through a healthcare provider app. The bulletin also threatened that customers attempting to transmit false documents would be banned from all locations.
“Our entire team is vaccinated. You should be too, ”the email concludes.
Inspiring consumer confidence is also a factor. At Fulton Market, staff at Ever, the fine dining restaurant of James Beard winner Curtis Duffy, posed for an Instagram post with a caption: “100% Vaxed 100% Masked. “
The Tribune was talking with more restaurant and bar owners requiring masks. Four Moon Tavern in Roscoe Village has a mask and vaccine requirement for those who sit at the bar. Mfk, the Spanish seafood restaurant in Lakeview, is closed indefinitely after news of a landmark case involving a staff member.
“We are devastated by this news, having made every effort to be as safe as possible since the start of the pandemic,” Mfk said. Instagram account reads. “We only reopened for six weeks of service after being closed for 16 months, so this decision was not made lightly.”
Co-owner Scott Worsham tells Eater Chicago he hopes the restaurant could open on August 12.
A decisive case is when a vaccinated person tests positive for COVID-19. On Sunday, Arwady acknowledged the advances, but retorted that 99.99% of Chicagoans vaccinated had not been hospitalized and that 97% of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were from people who had not been fully vaccinated.
Arwady added that the current increase in cases is similar to the “mini surge” that Chicago experienced in April with eight or nine new hospitalizations per day.
Chicago will wait and see how Lollapalooza affects the city’s COVID-19 numbers. It could take a week before city officials share data.
Many restaurants are waiting for the federal government to fully approve the COVID-19 vaccines that were administered as part of an emergency approval. Full approval would give companies more legal options to demand warrants.