Dec 14, 2021 - News

Philly's vaccine mandate for restaurants and bars met with mixed response

A server wears a protective mask in the outdoor dining section of a restaurant in Philadelphia.
A server wears a protective mask in the outdoor dining section of a restaurant in Philadelphia. Photo: Kriston Jae Bethel/Getty Images

Philadelphia restaurants and hotel industry groups have mixed feelings about the city's new mandate requiring indoor diners and bar-goers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Driving the news: City leaders announced Monday that proof of vaccination must be provided to enter restaurants, bars, sports venues, theaters, casinos and several other establishments, starting Jan. 3.

  • There's a grace period that allows for a negative COVID-19 test within the last 24 hours, up until Jan. 17. Then the city will transition to only proof of vaccination.

What they're saying: The city's hotel industry is bracing for a drop in business.

  • Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said local hotels had been seeing a recent uptick in weekend stays. Some projected further gains as more employees return to in-person work.
  • But Grose expects the mandate to have a "negative financial impact" on the industry should people choose to hold events outside of Philadelphia, where there are fewer regulations.
  • It'll "definitely be a setback," he said.

Jabari Jones, president of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, said some businesses might be forced to hire an additional employee to enforce the new mandate, which comes at a time when the food industry is already struggling with a labor shortage.

  • Jones said businesses need more help from city and state officials, like relaxing restrictions to allow for to-go cocktails again, among other things.
  • "How do we make sure that businesses effectively don't get screwed when it comes to revenue?" asked Jones, who heads the business coalition of around 2,000 members.

Meanwhile, Center City District president Paul Levy said it's too early to determine how the mandate would affect his members.

  • "We're naturally concerned about how a mandate will affect an industry that has been severely challenged by the pandemic and is starting to rebound," he said.

The other side: Marc Collazzo, executive director of the Fishtown Kensington Area Business Improvement District, was unfazed by the new mandate.

  • He said the regulations were a relief because they put in place a single, citywide policy rather than a patchwork of rules.

Of note: Many Fishtown restaurants and venues have already implemented their own vaccine mandates, including Martha and Frankford Hall.

  • "Since most businesses and restaurants have been doing vaccine mandates, it's become the norm," Collazzo said.
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