Chicago restaurants are struggling to stay afloat amid COVID-19 vaccination requirements

Chicago restaurants are struggling with staffing, the high costs of fuel and provisions, and now they are committing resources to implement the city’s vaccine mandate. 

Too many are on the brink of going out of business, according to Roger Romanelli, coordinator of the Chicago Restaurants Association.

"Any time a mayor in an American city says, ‘hey, we need to check vax papers and IDs at a restaurant,’ unfortunately some customers get discouraged, so sales go down even further," Romanelli said. "Restaurants are willing to help the government, the government has got to deliver those federal funds by Jan. 31." 


Chicago’s vaccine mandate took effect Jan. 3, requiring customers to show proof of vaccination when entering dine-in restaurants, bars and other businesses like gyms. It affects everyone over age 5. Customers over age 16 must show identification in addition to their COVID-19 vaccination card or facsimile. 

January is a slow time for the restaurant industry, and outdoor dining is not always an option in the winter months. Last year, the federal government awarded grants to restaurants to help them stay afloat.


In Chicago, 1,500 restaurants received grants, 2,500 applied and got nothing. Romanelli sent a letter to President Biden, asking for federal aid for restaurants. He says each will need about $200,000 to survive and make up for the losses of the last two years.