CHICAGO - As cases of COVID-19 skyrocket, businesses – now used to pivoting – are once again navigating the unknown.
In just five days, Chicago and Cook County restaurants will be required to check that customers five years and older are vaccinated.
"We just honestly don’t have the time nor the bandwidth to be asking you all for these cards," Jessica Perjes, Tacotlan co-owner said in an Instagram video posted Monday.
In the city’s Hermosa neighborhood, Tacotlan announced this week that ahead of Chicago’s vaccine requirement taking effect Monday, Jan. 3, its doors are closing to dine-in customers.
"Do we want to put our resources in a cook, to shorten the length it takes somebody to get their order, or do we want to have somebody at the door checking vaccine and ID cards? Of course, I went with a cook," said Perjes. "That was the only way. I just don’t have the resources to be paying two people. I could only employ one and that’s where I needed to put my resources."
Perjes said the new requirement is putting another burden on already struggling restaurants.
While she said the decision to move back to carry out and delivery only wasn’t easy, she believes it’s currently what’s best for her and her father, who own the business together.
"Most people are sticking around to place their order anyway, and we’re kind of going to go back to eating in the car," said Perjes.
Other restaurants, like Swift & Sons Tavern located in Wrigleyville, are also taking it day by day.
In a Facebook post Tuesday, the restaurant announced that "out of an abundance of caution, and for the safety of our team and guests," they closed Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
"It is challenging. Everything we’ve had to deal with has been challenging, curveballs are thrown every day and this is just another one of them," said Scott Weiner, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group co-owner and Illinois Restaurant Association executive board member.
Weiner said he believes it’s still going to get harder for the restaurant industry before it gets easier, but is hopeful the new vaccine requirement will be beneficial.
"What I hope ultimately happens from this, is the guests that haven’t felt as comfortable dining out because they haven’t wanted to be around unvaccinated people, I hope those people start dining out again," said Weiner.
The challenges facing restaurant owners are also evident in the numbers.
According to Weiner, in the fourth quarter of 2019, more than 400 new restaurants opened in Chicago; however, during the same time period this year, that number dipped drastically, with only about 120 new restaurants opening.
Both Chicago and Cook County’s vaccine requirements also apply to gyms, and entertainment venues where food or drink are served.