Jan 5, 2022 - Business

Philly's restaurant industry grapples with vaccine mandate

Illustration of a fork, knife and syringe on a napkin.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Philly's hospitality and restaurant industries are easing into the new vaccine mandate.

Driving the news: The city started requiring proof of vaccination for patrons going to bars, sports venues and most establishments that sell food and beverages on-site on Monday.

  • The mandate takes effect as Philadelphia grapples with a COVID-19 surge, primarily driven by the Omicron variant. As of Tuesday, the city has a nearly 40% positivity rate.

Flashback: Right before the holidays, a few establishments temporarily closed because of outbreaks or potential exposures.

  • Hook and Master closed indoor dining and is only doing takeout orders through Jan. 9.
  • Khyber Pass Pub closed two weeks ago but has since reopened.
  • Harper's Garden had to reduce its dining hours last week because of COVID-related staffing issues.

What they're saying: "This is the floor, not the ceiling," Avram Hornik, who owns a number of businesses, including Morgan's Pier, Harper's Garden and Cherry Street Pier, said about the mandate.

  • Hornik said wants to keep his staff and customers safe. He acknowledged business has been slower this week, but said it would be unfair to blame the mandate because there are so many other factors.

Renee Maffiore, a manager at Milkboy, said fewer guests are coming in since the mandate went into effect, but the ones who do come tend to be repeat patrons.

  • She also said it's too early to tell if this will result in a financial hit.
  • "Our staff is happy about it, and they feel safer coming to work," she said.

Meanwhile, many members of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, which is mostly small businesses, aren't happy with the decision to introduce more restrictions without additional aid, the group's president Jabari Jones said.

  • "Lawmakers need to get more creative on how they get relief to businesses that are concerned for their livelihood," Jones said.
  • Jones is also worried customers will be incentivized to go to other places outside of the city that have less stringent requirements, especially venues that rely on big group events.

Ben Fileccia, the director of operations and strategy for the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, said he's heard anecdotally from restaurant members that requiring proof of vaccinations isn't deterring business.

  • But, he also mentioned that it's "troubling" that hotels, casinos and event-catering companies lost a lot of scheduled parties because customers feared they wouldn't be able to host events under the mandate.

Of note: No complaints had been filed through the 311 line as of Tuesday.

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