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Some Chicago Bars And Restaurants Are Beginning To Require Proof Of COVID-19 Vaccination This Week

CHICAGO (CBS) -- No vaccine card? No entry. The number of Chicago bars and restaurants where you might come across a sign with those words on the door is growing.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, many bars and restaurants in particular on North Halsted Street in the greater Lakeview area – but other parts of the city too – have decided to go that route ahead of big events this coming week.

For many the policy starts this week.

"It's really that one extra step," said Brad Balof, general manager of Sidetrack at 3349 N. Halsted St., in the heart of Chicago's LGBTQ nightlife district.

People who come to Sidetrack will be asked to show their vaccination cards along with their IDs at the door. Balof explained what their policy will look like starting Tuesday.

"You're going to show either physical - meaning the actual hard copy – photocopy, or electronic proof - a picture on your phone that you're vaccinated," he said.

Balof says it wasn't an easy decision to implement this policy, but they feel it's the right one.

"There are people who are anti-vax or anti-requiring proof of vaccination, and those people, we just have to say the science is with us right now," he said.

Right across the street, D.S. Tequila Co. at 3352 N. Halsted St. is making the same choice - joining the list of others here now requiring proof of vaccination.

The same goes for Replay, which also has a location on the strip at 3439 N. Halsted St., and another at 2833 N. Sheffield Ave.

"We're a 9,000-square-foot arcade bar," said Mark Kwiatkowski of the Sheffield Avenue location – where they have already been asking for proof of vaccination at the door for months.

"You get a sticker like this – 'fully vaccinated, game on,'" he said.

If a customer doesn't have proof of vaccination, Kwiatkowski said they're still allowed in, for now at the Sheffield Avenue location, but with mask mandates enforced.

"If we have guests without the sticker and they remove their masks? We have to intervene and have them put their mask back on," Kwiatkowski said.

We reached out to the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection for their take on the number of businesses choosing to take precautions like these. This was their response:

"In alignment with the CDC's guidance, the City is now recommending that businesses encourage patrons to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, in all public indoor settings. This advisory does not apply to outdoor settings – masks remain optional outdoors, where COVID-19 transmission is much less likely. As a reminder, outdoor settings include sidewalk cafes, outdoor patios, rooms with retractable roofs, outdoor tents with at least 50% of sides open and indoor tables placed within eight feet of walls that are least 50% open. While universal masking is now encouraged in indoor settings, the recommendation allows masks to be removed in certain cases, such as when patrons are actively eating or drinking. No changes are being made to the recommendations for social distancing."

The department did not issue a comment on vaccination proof.

So, they say, if it takes an extra, unrequired step to move forward?
They'll keep that one extra step in place at the door for as long as they need to.

"We want to stay open," Balof said. "We don't want to revert back to some of the guidelines we had to revert to the past 18 months."

Many bars in particular are making the rule ahead of the Northalsted Market Days festival, which begins this Friday night on Halsted Street between Addison Street and Belmont Avenue.

Also requiring proof of vaccination is Golden Dagger, 2447 N. Halsted St.

Illinois Restaurant Association President and Chief Executive Officer Sam Toia also weighed in, saying point-blank that vaccination is a must:

"In order to control the spread of COVID-19, individuals must get vaccinated as soon as possible. A backslide would be catastrophic for our community and businesses throughout the state. As one of the most highly regulated sectors, the restaurant industry continues to prioritize the health and safety of its workforce and customers. As always, the IRA encourages operators to follow CDC and local health guidance. We are confident that our restaurants will maintain safe and welcoming environments for all while we continue to advocate for increased vaccination and the replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund."

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