Lincoln Park restaurants and venues tackle vaccination mandates

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For much of the past year and a half, we’ve been working hard inside, hoping to have the chance to see a show, have a drink, or just have dinner somewhere other than the kitchen table.

Vaccinations against Covid-19 made that hope possible, as 68.9% of Illinois residents have received at least one dose, according to the Mayo Clinic. But anything less than unanimity opens up the risk of being exposed to Covid-19 at any restaurant or show that one might try to enjoy.

Unless you are not allowed to enter.

“It was a decision I made with my staff that we were only going to be fully vaccinated,” said Donnie Biggins, owner of Golden Dagger, a coffee bar and playhouse in Lincoln Park.

Golden Dagger is one of many locations in Lincoln Park and the greater Chicago area to require proof of vaccination for customers and employees, alongside places such as Kingston Mines, Lincoln Hall and Trader Todd’s, to attend at events or being a dinner client.

“The main reason we do this is for the safety of the musicians performing in our space,” Biggins said. “A lot of them are on tour, a lot of them are doing this for a living and we have to make sure that we do our part to provide a safe space for this industry to happen.”

These changes are also appealing to customers.

“I don’t think a place should require vaccinations, but I’d rather they do because it makes everyone safer,” said Jonah Benthusen, Junior DePaul.

Ensuring the safety of performers and patrons is vital to the recovery of the on-site restaurant industry, which has declined 17% since 2019, according to Statista.

Despite the new requirements, there does not appear to have been a significant drop in support.

Since the implementation of their vaccination mandates, no restaurant or place in Lincoln Park has encountered resistance from patrons that would cause them to abandon it. “The initial change shocked some people, but the general public bought into the program,” Biggins said.

Vaccination mandates continue to be controversial, as evidenced by the 36.5% of Chicagoans who have not received a vaccine. Of Forbes, 21% of people aged 18 to 29 said they would never get vaccinated, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Their reasoning ranges from concerns about side effects to skepticism about the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine.

However, the companies which have decided to institute these mandates receive the support of the high places.

“I applaud businesses and places that require proof of vaccination or a negative test to be admitted and I think we’ll see more,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in September in response to a letter from several aldermen urging a vaccination warrant for indoor public places, including restaurants and performance venues, according to ABC.

It remains possible that vaccines will become a requirement for city-wide businesses, although not everyone is rushing to institute them.

“The responsibility for vaccination rates rests directly with the alderman and the mayor and not with small businesses,” Roger Romanelli, coordinator of the Chicago Restaurants Coalition, said at a new conference in September, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. .

Much of the reluctance to adopt the mandates expressed by Romanelli and others stems from their belief that the city would shift the responsibility of “managing” the pandemic to owners of small businesses – and even larger sites – by making them enforce rules that could restrict the spread of Covid-19, but ultimately hurt their business.

As with any voluntary decision made by a small business, it all depends on how customers react and whether this type of change will hurt more than it helps.

For some, the decision to try to balance Covid-19 security and business has been a success.

“Overall I’m really proud of our community and our industry and everyone who follows the rules and allows us to be open to events and bring joy to our community,” Biggins said.

Over the next few months, as temperatures drop and indoor places become just places, it will be even more relevant to know which businesses will need customers’ immunization status.

“I think a careful business owner would do immunization warrants because it makes them safer, as well as their customers and their staff,” Benthusen said.

Ultimately, with or without a city-wide mandate, restaurants are marching into an uncertain future, only hoping that their customers will be there with them. “We are still fully operational, we do everything,” Biggins said. “We can continue and I feel the community is supporting us.”

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