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Chicago Restaurants, Gyms Report Smooth Operations On First Day Of COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Effective Monday, a COVID-19 vaccine card was required to get into restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and other public venues in Chicago and most of suburban Cook County.

CBS 2's Asal Rezaei set out to find out how the first day under the new mandate went.

Rezaei stopped by gyms, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops on Monday. All said they have had no issues when asking people to show their proof of vaccination.

We stopped at River North Gym in the Merchandise Mart. The owner said it has already been hard enough surviving through the pandemic.

First it was a stay-at-home order, then a mask mandate, and now vaccines. Owner Bernie LeCocq said it is getting hard to keep up with the changes.

River North Gym is complying and making sure their guests are bringing their vaccination cards where they can put them on file.

Rezaei saw staff both at the gym and at many other businesses asking for vaccination cards, along with an ID. Most businesses said as long as they're not dealing with capacity limits – which really impact their businesses – everything else is manageable right now.

"we sent out communication to some of our members. We got some really nasty emails back. We got some cancellations," LeCocq said. "But overall in River North, the vaccination rate is about 81 percent, so we've been doing well collecting vaccine cards, and we haven't had much pushback from our members."

"If we want to look at it positively, at least when guests come in, they know that they're walking into a restaurant with everybody that's vaccinated," added Steven Hartenstein of Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants. "We're not crazy about it, but we're going to do our part. We're going to follow the law and pray that get through this soon,"

Hartenstein said one of his restaurants, Tavern on Rush, had to turn away a family from Texas earlier Monday. They had two teenage children with them, and were confused about the age requirement for vaccination cards.

Tavern on Rush did bring in on-site COVID-19 testing for their staff members. Weekly COVID testing is still an option for employees who are not vaccinated.

Restaurants will accept either a photocopy of a vaccination card or even a clear photo of it on a phone. This applies to anyone 5 or older.

There are some exemptions for the proof of vaccination requirement, such as if you're inside a business for less than 10 minutes to pick up a carryout order or use the restroom.

People who have been granted a religious or medical exemption from vaccination by their employer will be exempt, but must show proof of the exemption, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours.

Also exempt are:

  • Nonresident performing artists who do not regularly perform or render services in a covered location, or a nonresident individual accompanying such a performing artist, while the performing artist or individual is in a covered location for the purposes of such artist's performance;
  • Nonresident professional athletes or a nonresident individuals accompanying such professional athletes, who enter a covered location as part of their regular employment for purposes of the professional athlete/sports team competition;
  • Anyone under age 18 who enters a covered location to participate in an activity organized by a school or after-school program offered by any pre-kindergarten through grade twelve public or non-public school; and
  • Individuals who enter for the purposes of voting in a municipal, state, or federal election; or, pursuant to law, assisting or accompanying a voter or observing such election.
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