"I have not been this concerned about COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic in 2020," said Mayor Lightfoot.
Beginning Jan. 3, people will have to show proof of vaccination to enter bars, restaurants, fitness centers and entertainment and recreational venues where food and drink are served in the city of Chicago.
Entertainment and recreation venues include, but are not limited to, movie theaters, music and concert venues, live performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, card rooms, family entertainment centers, play areas, pool and billiard halls and other recreational game centers.
"We know historically and from data, these are the places that are the most risky places for spread, which is why we're focused on them," said Lightfoot.
Patrons age 5 and older must show proof of full vaccination, and patrons age 16 and over will also need to provide identification that matches their vaccination record.
If employees of these venues and establishments are not fully vaccinated, the employer must ensure that these employees both continue to mask when interacting with patrons and provide proof of a weekly negative COVID-19 test, city officials said.
Though the new mandate will bring change for many businesses and patrons in the New Year, some establishments have already been implementing these measures for months.
"It creates kind of a sense of security for people who are already vaccinated and want to be in spaces where they know other people are vaccinated as well," said Adam Dempewolf, general manager of Jerry's Sandwiches and Geraldine’s Café.
Jerry's Sandwiches and Geraldine’s Café in Lincoln Square have had signs posted since August – letting patrons know they must be vaccinated to dine there.
"I'm all for it, we have to do something, this is getting out of control," said Chicago resident Maureen Ford.
Dempewolf said matching the name on a customer's license and vaccine card upon entry has been a smooth process.
"If they are vaccinated it's really quick," said Dempewolf. "If you're not vaccinated and can't eat here, I think even increasingly those people understand that they just can't come here."
In response to Tuesday’s announcement, Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association said:
"Chicago's hospitality community is in a very fragile stage of recovery. Throughout the pandemic, the industry has prioritized customer and team member safety above all else, and the IRA strongly supports vaccinations for everyone to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We encourage all diners to please lend their cooperation, respect and kindness to the employees working to comply with the new mandate during these challenging times."
Some businesses are facing challenges before the mandate takes effect.
Music venues Hideout Inn and Empty Bottle are among the businesses closing down until the end of the month – citing the swift spread of the virus in social media posts announcing the move.
Meantime, Rob Karr heads the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and said obstacles that will come with the mandate include how customers may react.
"I think the important part will be that if you have a situation with someone inside, and they become difficult, then we will need support of the city in that instance," said Karr.
Looking ahead, Karr said it's possible the mandate may expand to Cook County.
"We’re hearing some suggestions that the county might follow suit next week in a similar fashion," said Karr. "How far it spreads beyond that remains anyone’s guess."
The vaccine order will remain in effect until health officials feel the city is out of the fifth wave of COVID-19 cases.
"We didn't want to get to this point, but given the situation we find ourselves in, we simply have no choice," said Lightfoot.
Places that are exempt from this order include houses of worship, K-12 schools, grocery stores, office buildings and residential buildings.
Also exempt are any individuals entering an establishment for less than 10 minutes for the purpose of ordering food or drink.
"If you wish to live life as normally as possible, with the ease to do the things that you love, you must be vaccinated in the city of Chicago starting Jan. 3," said Lightfoot. "This health order might pose an inconvenience to the unvaccinated, and the fact is, it's inconvenient by design."
Lightfoot said the city is averaging about 1700 cases of COVID-19 daily.
Deaths are at a higher rate than the city has seen in months, and hospitalizations are at the highest since the COVID surge last winter, health officials said.
"The unvaccinated are effecting the health, well-being and livelihoods of all the rest of us," said Lightfoot. "So to control the spread, we have to limit the risk, and a significant risk in our city remains the unvaccinated."
At 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, the city will hold the first of several webinars for business owners looking for more guidance on the mandate.
Additional webinars will be held Wednesday, Dec. 29 at 11 a.m., and Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m.
To register for a webinar, please visit Chicago.gov/businesseducation.