Operations

Restaurants Begin to Reverse Vaccine Mandates

In the scope of things, it wasn’t that long ago when we first heard that restaurants required indoor diners to show evidence of vaccination. The proof of vaccination mandate began in Los Angeles on November 29, 2021, almost exactly four months ago. Yet, to many, it seems like a lifetime ago.

Of course, the Los Angeles vaccine mandate wasn’t just for restaurants. Gyms, personal care establishments, and entertainment and recreational facilities all adhered to the new policy. Moreover, many restaurants had taken it upon themselves to limit indoor dining even before the law went into effect. And, now, less than half a year later, those restrictions are lifting.

In February, California became the first state to formally declare that they were shifting to an endemic approach to COVID-19. Now, Los Angeles County is preparing to lift its indoor mask mandate and ease its proof of vaccination policy.

Where’s the Celebration?

While many of us feel a strong urge to rejoice, it’s apparent that the on-again, off-again COVID-19 virus has us in its grip. We search for the word “variant” online and sift through hospital statistics. We hear that Omicron is in retreat, and instead of getting out the balloons, banners, and trumpets, we sit in wait, wondering what’s next.

On January 3, 2022, the vaccination requirement for Chicago bars and restaurants went into effect. Essentially, anyone five years or older were required to show proof of full vaccination to dine indoors, go to the gym, or head to entertainment venues or sporting events where food and drink were served.

Just two months after the law began, the Windy City lifted its COVID-19 restrictions that told business owners how to protect their customers, clients, and staff. Not only did the city get rid of the proof-of-vaccination requirement for restaurants, bars, and other businesses on February 28, it also did away with its indoor mask mandate that has been in effect since August.

Is It Time to Celebrate?

In some ways, we are like the animals that get stuck in a maze. We know that there’s a way out, but we feel a bit safer remaining in what’s become our comfort zone. I remember going to a grocery store where, for the first time in a long time, many were not wearing masks. I took mine off and began feeling guilty. Was I making the people that wore masks feel uncomfortable or a little less secure? I noticed some taking a wide birth around me in the aisles, or perhaps I just imagined it.

What we do know is that COVID-19 restrictions across the nation are lifting, and it may be time to consider what our new normal will look like. Let’s take a look at what’s on the other side of a ruthless pandemic.

In February, Philadelphia announced that restaurants and bars would no longer have to ask guests for proof of vaccination. Boston also reported lessening these requirements. In addition, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. also lifted COVID-19 restrictions.

Restaurants Set the Rules

For many, it’s up to restaurant operators and owners to decide the path they take from here. For now, many are staying the course and keeping their mask mandates and vaccine requirements in place. Others are ditching the mask requirements and keeping the vaccine checks, while others are setting all COVID-19 requirements aside.

The good news is that many business owners can make these decisions regarding what’s best for their business, employees, and clients. The bad news is that many business owners now must decide what’s best for their business, employees, and clients. With that decision comes an incredible level of responsibility, and one that even those with a Ph.D. in virology have disagreed on.

While we ponder our responsibilities and discuss the now complex topics of freedom and safety, cities like Seattle, and the state it resides in, dropped their vaccine requirements for indoor diners on March 1. On the other side of the fence are cities like New Orleans, which expanded its vaccine mandate for indoor diners.

NBC reported that Yolk, a well-loved breakfast, and lunch restaurant, has been mask optional in Florida and Texas locations for a while and plans on transitioning their Chicago restaurants to this optional approach, as well. Is the time approaching when we no longer check our pockets and purses to make sure we have our masks before heading out the door? Time will tell.

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