A sign on the counter at LePeep on Church Street.

Imagine being “carded” at six in the morning. But instead of being carded for proof of age in order to buy a shot, this time you’re carded for proof of a shot in order to buy a meal.

Evanston’s new rule requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for dining or drinking at an indoor establishment began Monday morning.

Restaurants and coffee shops open for breakfast were the first to deal with the regulation, and there were hardly any problems.

At Le Peep, on Church Street downtown, manager Paulette Cocozza told Evanston Now that “Everyone’s been really good about it.”

In fact, Cocozza said, the restaurant has been getting calls asking about the policy, positive calls at that. One potential customer said she “wanted to go someplace where everyone was vaccinated.”

The “vax-to-dine” regulation was imposed because of the growing number of cases of COVID-19, especially the highly infectious omicron variant.

Despite all the publicity and news coverage about the virus and the proof-of-vaccination requirement (not to mention a sign on the restaurant’s front door), a couple still showed up at Le Peep for lunch without any documentation. They were politely informed of the rule, said they were not aware of it, and left.

There was also a brief exchange at Frida’s a few blocks away. Employee Manny Coronel told Evanston Now that “one lady was a little upset” about having to show proof.

“Do I have to?”, she asked.

“Yes,” replied Coronel.

The customer then did show documentation. “She’s okay now,” Coronel added.

Otherwise, everyone else complied with no questions nor problems at the restaurants checked.

The proof-of-vax also applies to indoor sports faciliites where food and drink are served, such as at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. The rule also covers gyms and recreation centers.

There is an exception for those ordering takeout. If you’re only going to be in the restaurant for 10 minutes, proof of vaccination is not needed.

At coffee shops like Peet’s, on Chicago Avenue downtown, there is a mix of sit-down and carry-out customers.

Manager Nicoloe Decosmo said those staying in the shop have had their documentation ready while ordering at the register. “Surprisingly,” she said, “there have been no problems so far.”

Back at Le Peep, some of the customers were already old pros at having vax cards at the ready.

Katherine Kenny drove up from home in Chicago with her two vaccinated daughters, ages 11 and 8.

All three had proof of vaccination, which they’ve been using in Chicago since Jan. 3, when that city’s similar “vax-to-dine” regulation took effect.

Kenny and her children took an Evanston trip because, she said, “CPS (Chicago Public Schools) had no school today.”

CPS has been closed since last Wednesday in a dispute between the teachers union and the district over COVID protocols.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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