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Philadelphia Restaurants Martha, Irwin's Upstairs To Require Proof Of COVID-19 Vaccination For Indoor Dining

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention says "the war has changed" because of the COVID-19 Delta variant, and with concerns rising across the country, at least two Philadelphia restaurants have changed their rules. Martha said Saturday it will require all guests to provide proof of vaccination to dine indoors or sit at its bar.

The general manager told Eyewitness News their new policy is a result of feedback from staff. They also ran it by some of their regular customers that were all in favor of it.

The restaurant said customers can either show their vaccine card or a picture of it.

If a customer is unable to provide proof, they'll have to sit outside on the patio. The patio can seat anywhere from 50 to 60 people.

There's limited seating indoors with only 16 at the bar and five tables.

In posts to its social media accounts, Martha said the new policy began on Saturday and is out of respect for both its neighbors and staff.

"Out of respect for our fellow neighbors and staff, starting today: Martha will be requiring all guests to provide proof of vaccination in order to dine indoors or sit at our bar - no exceptions," the restaurant wrote. "Thank you for your help in keeping our fellow community and staff safe."

While they encourage patio and sidewalk seating, management wants to do what they can to keep everyone safe.

"We've been on a roller coaster of emotions through this pandemic. This pandemic isn't over," Martha general manager Olivia Caceres said, "and we're really listening to our staff. We care about their health. We care about their safety. If it's something just as simple as checking some vaccination cards in order to come inside, that's a simple thing for us to do. We're still offering service to everyone. If you are not able to show a card for whatever reason, we have patio seating, we have sidewalk seating."

Martha is located at 2113 East York St. in Kensington. Its website describes the restaurant as "a locally sourced, fermentation focused, cozy neighborhood bar that features hoagies, vegetables, natural wine, draft cocktails, sour beer, cheese, pickles, and so much more."

In South Philadelphia, Irwin's Upstairs said Saturday afternoon effective Sunday, proof of vaccination will be required to dine at the restaurant.

"For the safety of our team and our community, Irwin's Upstairs will require all guests and employees to be fully vaccinated — no exceptions — effective August 1, 2021," the restaurant wrote in an Instagram post. "All guests wishing to drink or dine at Irwin's Upstairs must show proof of vaccination upon arrival. If you or a member of your party is unvaccinated, you will not be eligible to dine with us."

The executive chef at Irwin's Upstairs said they're willing to risk losing some customers.

"I can't imagine that we wouldn't lose customers and as a business owner, I'm aware of that risk, but the risk to losing customers is less than losing a staff member. I mean, we're talking money vs. a human life. If you asked me to choose, I'm obviously going to choose a human life over anything," Michael Ferreri said.

Irwin's Upstairs said customers can show their vaccination card or a photo of it to a staff member.

The restaurant advised any customers with reservations who are unvaccinated to cancel their reservation. It said, "If you are canceling within 24 hours of your reservation time, please tell us it is because of our vaccination policy ahead of time to avoid incurring the $30 per person fee."

The restaurant said it will not provide refunds for cancelations without advanced notice.

With health officials again suggesting wearing masks while indoors, plus the spread of the Delta variant and breakthrough cases of COVID-19, some patrons are OK with the restaurant's decision.

"If those who can get it, they do, it also helps those who can't get it yet," Michael Engel said.

CBS3's Alecia Reid contributed to this report.

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