Watch CBS News

Chicago Restaurateurs Say They Won't Have Time, Staff To Implement COVID-19 Vaccination Proof Requirement

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago restaurants banded together Monday to fight Mayor Lori Lightfoot's COVID-19 vaccination mandate for customers.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, restaurateurs said they don't have enough time, or staff, to implement the policy in a few days' time. The fight also comes as other big cities are allowing for mid-month deadlines.

The Chicago Restaurant Coalition hand-delivered a formal request to Mayor Lightfoot's office Monday, asking for a little more time to change their operations so they can afford to check people's COVID-19 vaccination cards.

The reason, they say, is that this is all going to make a real impact on Chicago restaurants that are already short-staffed.

A Chicago staple since 1932, Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern at 1655 N. Sedgwick St. has deep roots in the Old Town neighborhood.

"Still a family business," said owner Mary Kay Tuzi. "Still selling barbecue ribs as our specialty."

Twin Anchors plans to keep serving those ribs for decades to come. But Tuzi is not happy about the fast-approaching new vaccination mandate.

"Logistically, it's just going to be a nightmare," she said. "It's a week away now. I still don't know how we are going to do this."

The mandate applies to the city's 7,000 restaurants and their customers as of Monday, Jan. 3, when businesses have to start checking vaccine cards and IDs.

"Unless you're a nightclub, you don't have people standing at the door carding people," Tuzi said. "You don't have that process in place."

Tuzi said Twin Anchors applauds any mandate that is in place for safety and that means they will stay open at capacity.

"I'm vaccinated. I'm boosted. My staff is," Tuzi said.

But Tuzi said they need some more time and more information to make it happen.

"Can the city help us out with funds to implement this, if we have to hire someone else to do this?" she said. "This wasn't in my budget."

Tuzi also asked why COVID-19 mitigation rules are "falling again just on the restaurants and small businesses."

"This is my family's restaurant that I've owned for 43 years. I will do whatever it takes to support that and keep my staff and customers safe, but give me some understanding of why this is happening?" Tuzi said.

Tuzi's voice was joined by others Monday as the Chicago Restaurant Coalition met virtually to push for an extended deadline and some federal money from the city to help businesses - still dealing with staffing issues - to implement the requirement.

They delivered a formal request to the mayor.

"Restaurants can't turn this around in 13 days," said Roger Romanelli, Coordinator of the Chicago Restaurants Coalition.

The coalition is asking for an extension to Jan. 15 - a push just won in north suburban Skokie, where restaurants now have until Jan. 10 to implement the same mandate.

Back at Twin Anchors, Tuzi said, "We're still struggling."

She said while the restaurant has been in business since 1932 with no plans to leave, she is hoping for Mayor Lightfoot and the city's support.

"Please give us some consideration and please give us the time and funds that we need if this is how this has to be implemented," Tuzi said.

Molina reached out to the Mayor's office and the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection on the mandate and how it will be enforced. Each released a statement:

Chicago BACP:
"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.

On January 3, 2022, the Vaccine Requirement will be in effect and enforced by the parties listed above.
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."

Mayor's Office:
"The Mayor is committed to protecting the health and safety of Chicago residents and our many visitors. In response to the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases both locally and nationally, the City announced that proof of vaccination will be required to dine indoors, visit gyms, or enjoy entertainment venues where food or drink are being served, beginning on Monday, January 3rd. The City has hosted business education webinars to advise businesses on the vaccine requirement. Throughout this pandemic, businesses have shown their commitment to the health and safety of their employees and patrons by strictly following public health guidelines, including the Mask Mandate, which is still in effect. Businesses have stepped up in the past to keep our city safe and implement the necessary measures to protect the health and wellbeing of our residents."

Meanwhile, Cook County is putting a similar order in place starting Jan. 3 – affecting most suburban areas within the county.

County spokespeople said they are not aware of any requests for a deadline push on their end. Skokie has its own health department that decided on their extension to Jan. 10.

This is the full text of the formal request to Mayor Lightfoot from the Chicago Restaurants Coalition:

"Stunned by Mayor Lori Lightfoot's sudden Dec. 21 order that 7,000 restaurants must start demanding proof of COVID vaccines from indoor-dining customers starting Jan. 3, Chicago voters and businesses in the Chicago Restaurants Coalition (CRC) are pushing back.

"CRC is asking Lightfoot to follow the mayors of Boston and Washington DC who are giving restaurants until Jan. 15 to start vax checks. Restaurants need proper time to modify operations, train and possibly hire new staff, install security cameras to record interactions with guests and set new emergency protocols if customers object and get angry.

"Shown by (a) YouTube video from Sept. 16, 2021, customers in New York City attacked a restaurant hostess who stopped them from dining because they lacked vaccine cards and IDs. Now, every Chicago restaurant must prepare for this worst-case scenario, and they need until Jan. 15 to do so. In the future, any new mandates from Mayor Lightfoot should have 30-days notice, not 13 days.

"Also, CRC wants Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown to post written instructions on his website telling restaurants what to do if they have angry customers. Chicago's 911 emergency system must be prepared to take restaurants' calls.

"Further, CRC wants Lightfoot to require vax-checks at all Chicago government buildings (city, county, state and federal) if she's demanding this from restaurants. There's no government evidence to prove that restaurants are COVID hot spots, so it's unacceptable – again – for City Hall to uniquely and falsely demonize restaurants like this, scare away customers and cost them lost sales. If Lightfoot wants vax-checks at restaurants to encourage more people to get vaxxed, vax-checks at government buildings should be required too.

"Also, CRC is asking Lightfoot to write letters to U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin to allocate $60 billion more federal funds for Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) grants to thousands of Chicago restaurants struggling to survive and needing funds to cover costs related to Lightfoot's new vax-checks policy. Most RRF applicants received $0.

"Finally, CRC wants Lightfoot and the 50 aldermen to – finally – use Chicago's $1.9 billion federal COVID funds to fight the COVID crisis and stop Chicago's crime crisis. Unacceptably, Lightfoot and the aldermen want to use over $1 billion to cover up irresponsible City Hall spending in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

"Instead, City Hall spending cuts should happen, and federal funds should be reallocated. For example, cash lotteries can be held in vax-lagging neighborhoods like Austin and Englewood to boost vaccinations, and disadvantaged Chicagoans can be paid to enroll in job-training and job-placement programs, as well as substance-abuse programs, to prevent crime and violence and help people transform their lives away from crime.

"Further, Lightfoot and the aldermen can increase city fines and jail times for criminals, collaborating with Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx to enforce these fines and jail times.

"CRC urges everyone to get vaccinated and boosted. CRC honors the outstanding efforts of most of Chicago's 7,000 restaurants to follow CDC safety guidelines to keep people away from the virus."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.