Roger Romanelli, coordinator of the Chicago Restaurants Coalition and head of the Fulton Market Association, made the push to align with policies in Boston, New York City and Washington D.C. where businesses had upward of a 25 days’ notice.
“It’s right during the holidays when restaurant owners are busy, swamped and planning on spending time with family members,” Romanelli said. “There’s a lot of details involved with checking vaccine papers and having restaurants ready to go … We want to help the city, but 13 days is just not fair.”
Kim DiPofi, daughter of the owner of Pompei, a family owned Italian restaurant located on the city’s Near West Side says she is concerned about staff as well as customers coming into the restaurant.
“We need more time to get the rest of our employees to get vaccinated who aren’t already, but the flow is our biggest concern,” DiPofi said. “Where are we stopping customers? Are we catching them outside? We don’t want anybody waiting outside at this time of year. If we’re bringing them in and then turning them away, how does that make us look and what is this effect going to have on our employees as well?”
Len DeFranco, manager and adviser at Hawkeyes Bar & Grill, located in Little Italy, says the staffing and enforcement are also a concern, due in part to not always having the staff in place, such as a host, to verify and follow through on these requirements.
“You have groups coming in … five, six, seven, eight [people] and you have to check them all, but suppose one is not vaccinated, do we lose all of them?” DeFranco said. “Some people come from out of town and they don’t know the rules … I don’t think this was well thought out.”
The call for proof of vaccination comes amid the city’s rising COVID-19 cases which have been crowding hospitals as the delta and omicron variants spread across the state.
“The restaurants want to comply with the order, but they need more time,” Romanelli said. “We need all hands on deck … if it’s good for restaurants to check vaccination papers, anyone that walks into City Hall or any government building in Chicago should also be required to show their vaccine card.”
DiPofi says Cook County’s implementation of this same vaccine requirement took some weight off of Chicago restaurants who were going to lose customers to the suburbs.
“I just hope we don’t lose the customers that we are finally getting back into the restaurant,” DiPofi.