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Some Chicago Restaurants To Create 'Vaccinated Only' Sections Allowed Under New City COVID-19 Guidance

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago restaurant owners hoping to ease concerns for those who may be apprehensive about dining out have a solution: a vaccinated only section.

Although the city is still int he bridge phase of its reopening plan, city guidance allows businesses to operate with no restrictions as long as only vaccinated people are allowed in that area.

Those will be in place at Moe's Cantina this weekend, where a neon bracelet will be the key to a seat in the unrestricted vaccinated section of the restaurant.  The unvaccinated section will continue to have distanced tables and partitions.

"We decided to divide, and you're free to come on this side, go to the bar. You can be pre-pandemic," said owner Sam Sanchez.

He said customers will have to show proof of their full vaccination to get a pink bracelet to relax in a seat or stool in the area with no restrictions.

"Just back to normal," he said.

This made possible through brand new city guidelines just announced this week saying "establishments can operate without COVID-19 restrictions within their establishment if only vaccinated patrons and employees are allowed in within that area."

Sanchez said the city has already signed off on this. And it's going to make all the difference.

"I think this helps the businesses get back to a not even a break even but close to a break even," he said.

Sanchez also acts as Chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association. He acknowledges there has been a lot of confusion about new guidance about masks and the reopening process with federal, state and city differences. 

"There's always new guidance and there's a lot of miscommunication," he said.

That's why the city is hosting webinars for business owners on these new rules. Businesses with late hour licenses can operate without restrictions, but only if all customers are vaccinated. Dance floors can reopen with no masks or distancing, again, only if a business has verified those people are vaccinated. 

"That's the direction we want to go to get back to normal," Sanchez said. 

Businesses can choose to allow only vaccinate people in, and city officials say several businesses, specifically smaller bars, have already reached out about that option.

The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection released the following statement:

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Chicago has worked diligently to make sure that our business community understands the evolving regulations and has the information they need to keep their customers and employees safe. Since the pandemic began, we have held 48 webinars reaching over 5,000 attendees and made over 36,000 calls directly to businesses to inform them of the latest guidelines. As we near the end of the pandemic, regulations are loosening, and for the first time we are providing recommendations instead of formal requirements as it relates to mask wearing. As the regulations change we remain committed to continuing to share as much information as possible to help our business community navigate the ever-changing landscape.

Here is a FAQ on Masks and one on the Vaccine Exemption.

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