“If we have to change something, this is better than closing.”
That’s how one of the owners of the Pure Barre workout studio in Evanston reacted to the city’s upcoming requirement that customers of drinking, dining, fitness and entertainment venues show proof of vaccination to be allowed inside.
Kate Rechel says her studio on Church Street is “happy” to comply with the regulations, which take effect Jan. 10.
Evanston business owners figured the rule was coming, after both the City of Chicago and Cook County adopted the same policy.
“It was no surprise,” says Rechel.
Over on Chicago Avenue, at Sketchbook Brewing, founder Shawn Decker is already ahead of the game.
Decker says he’s been requiring proof of vaccination since Dec. 26.
Decker says that while he’s seen some negative social media trolls about his policy, “overall our customers are supportive.”
In fact, Decker says, for Trivia Night on Wednesday, he had a bigger crowd than usual, and says maybe the mandate actually helped draw patrons in.
Decker says that enforcement has not been difficult, and besides, he adds, “Any sane person would vastly prefer this to a shutdown,” which happened in the early days of the pandemic in 2020.
Another Chicago Avenue dining spot has also been requiring proof of vaccination for more than a week.
Heather Behm, co-owner of Union Pizzeria, says, “We’ve been following the science,” and she, her staff, and her customers “all feel a lot better” with the proof-of-vaccination policy.
Behm says that recently, a party of several people showed up to eat, but one member of the group had forgotten her vaccination card.
Behm was polite but insisted that the customer show proof.
“I’m sorry to be a pain,” Behm told her, “but everyone else here is relying on us to check.”
The customer then walked back home (it was not too far away), retrieved her card, got in to the restaurant, and later said “I appreciate your vigilance” for enforcing the facility’s rule.
“I wish it didn’t have to come to this,” says Eric Young, owner of La Principal Mexican restaurant on Main Street and Cantuccio’s pizza on Emerson. Restaurants already have to deal with mask mandates, and now here comes another.
“But I understand the safety,” Young adds. He says that a front desk person, perhaps with an owner or manager helping out, will do the checking.
“We’re going to follow the rules,” he says, but also wonders how long the vaccine check may last.
“There is no guideline as to when it’s turned off,” Young adds.
Derek Gaspar wishes it would not be turned on. Gaspar, who owns the Lucky Platter on Main Street, says, “I don’t see how this is protecting anybody,” because the Omicron variant may be impacting some of the vaccinated anyway.
Gaspar says he respects varying viewpoints on the issue, but says, “To me, it’s a big step to allow the government to force this kind of thing on business.”
He says as it is written now, the rule requires proof of vaccination for anyone over age five, and wonders if an entire family of customers is vaccinated except for a seven-year-old child, “am I going to have to kick the entire family out?”
But even though he may not like the regulations, as of now Gaspar says, “I don’t have a lot of choice” except to follow them.
The rules do allow take-out customers to enter a restaurant for up to ten minutes without a vaccination check, to pick up food to go.
And there are some food purveyors that are take out only, or take out and online ordering, like Hewn Bakery on Central Street.
The upcoming city regulation, which is generating so much reaction, “does not affect us,” says co-owner Julie Matthei. There are no tables inside.
Still, Matthei says, COVID is an ever-present reality. All of her staff is vaccinated and tested weekly. And anyone coming into the bakery, customer or worker, must wear a mask at all times.
Hewn opened its Central Street location right around when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“If you had asked me in March 2020 if COVID would still be with us now,” Matthei says, “it would have seemed crazy.”
But now, there’s yet another “new normal.”
And considering that her business is still in business despite all that’s gone on during the pandemic, Matthei adds, “I remind myself to be thankful for this when things get stressful”