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Chicago Restaurant With COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement Already In Place Has Advice As Citywide Mandate Approaches

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The COVID-19 vaccination mandate for Chicago and Cook County businesses is just days away - coming up Monday, Jan. 3.

But it won't change a single thing for some businesses with which CBS 2's Tara Molina connected with Tuesday. Those businesses have had the policy in place for months.

At Jerry's Sandwiches, 4739 N. Lincoln Ave., you can't walk through the door without showing an employee your proof of vaccination and an ID. It has been that way there since September, so they know exactly what to expect in a few days - and they're sharing some advice.

Customers at Jerry's Sandwiches undergo a quick ID and vaccination card check at the host stand before going in.

"Before asking for the cards, we'd already asked people be vaccinated to dine in," said Jerry's Sandwiches general manager Adam Dempewolf.

They put the formal policy in place back in September, which was when they started the checks.

"We're just trying to do our part," Dempewolf said.

For them, it is all about safety and keeping their staffing up.

"We want to make sure the restaurant stays open for business," Dempewolf said.

Since the policy is clearly marked at the door and entry way, Dempewolf said they haven't had any real issues. And what has become standard for them is about to be the standard everywhere.

With the city's mandate starting Jan. 3, everyone 5 and older will a COVID-19 vaccination card, and an ID for those 16 or older, to get inside any Chicago restaurant, gym, or entertainment venue that serves food and drinks.

Cook County and some suburban jurisdictions are implementing similar policies.

There has been some pushback - with business owners telling us, and the city, they support anything that means safety and full capacity - but they need more time to make it work.

"We are constantly flying by the seat of our pants," said Mary Kay Tuzi, owner of Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern in Old Town.

Many restaurants are already short-staffed. Just this week, we've seen job posts for positions such as "door host and vaccine mandate inspector."

And while every business is different, Dempewolf said even during the lunch rush, they've made it work.

"It's pretty much about as much time as it takes to look up someone's name for reservations," he said.

As to advice for businesses from a spot that's been doing this for a while?

"Just be open to maybe having a jacket handy so you can pop outside and check IDs outside if there's not enough room inside," Dempewolf said, "or maybe the first day or two, have someone extra around to kind of help."

We know the upcoming mandate can be enforced by the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, Department of Buildings, and Chicago Police.

We have been told inspections will be driven by complaints.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said the vaccination requirement will be handled the same way the mask mandate and other health orders have been:

"On January 3, 2022, the Vaccine Requirement will be in effect and enforced. As outlined in Public Health Order 2021-2, Section 7 states: Pursuant to Sections 2-112-040 and 2-112-050 of the Code, in conjunction with enforcement authority granted in the Code, this Order may be enforced by the Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), the Commissioner of the Buildings, or the Chicago Police Department, in addition to the Commissioner of Health.

"Similar to the Mask Mandate, establishments who violate the Vaccine Requirement can be issued two-citations/charges for violating the BACP and CDPH requirements under City of Chicago Public Health Order No. 2021-02.

"Any individual age 5 and older will be required to show proof of vaccination to dine indoors, visit gyms, or enjoy entertainment venues where food or drink are being served. Patrons 16 and older will have to show identification that matches their vaccination card. Patrons can prepare to have documentation ready when requested by a covered location in the public health order."

On enforcement, BACP added:

"The enforcement of the Vaccine Requirement is no different than the Mask Mandate, previous public health orders, or general operations.

"BACP investigations are complaint driven. Investigations can be conducted covertly if necessary, BACP Investigators will identify themselves whether a complaint is addressed overtly or covertly. BACP investigators always carry official City identification. Citizens are encouraged to contact 3-1-1 to report violations.

"In addition to addressing complains the BACP Active Compliance Program (ACP), a proactive educational program that helps business owners/operators stay compliant through non-disciplinary consultations, will be informing and reminding covered location to abide by the Vaccine Requirement and the Mask Mandate.

"BACP reserves the right to issue enforcement based on the egregiousness of the violation found during the investigation. Enforcement can vary from a 1-day Notice to Correct to citations issued in real time.

"All are parts of a comprehensive effort to ensure compliance and hold businesses accountable to these safety regulations designed to keep all Chicagoans safe."

The city didn't say if anyone will be checking businesses randomly. Again, they only said investigations are driven by complaints.

Meanwhile, Illinois Restaurant Association President and Chief Executive Officer Sam Toia released the following statement this week:

"Chicago's hospitality community is in a very fragile stage of recovery. Throughout the pandemic, the industry has prioritized customer and team member safety above all else, and the IRA strongly supports vaccinations for everyone to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We encourage all diners to please lend their cooperation, respect and kindness to the employees working to comply with the new mandate during these challenging times."

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