All adults in Illinois will soon be eligible for vaccinations, and that could have major ramifications for restaurants: Fully vaccinated customers — with proof — won’t count against COVID-19 capacity rules. Under current Phase 4 rules, Chicago’s restaurants and bars are allowed a maximum of 50 customers per indoor dining space or 50 percent of full capacity, whichever is fewer.
According to the state’s website: “individuals with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) 1-3 days prior to an event or outing do not count against capacity limits.” Crain’s first reported about the rule.
That statement doesn’t clearly define “fully vaccinated.” It could be right after receiving a second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccinations. Health experts have defined “fully vaccinated” as two weeks after that second dose (or after one shot, in the case of receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine). The reasoning also doesn’t fully mesh with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has lifted some recommendations, but it still suggests that the fully vaccinated should avoid medium- and large-sized gatherings.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week introduced a “bridge phase” between the state’s current stage, Phase 4, and its final stage, Phase 5. The bridge phase is slated to begin when 70 percent of seniors (aged 65 and up) in Illinois have received at least one vaccination dose. As of March 18, that number was at 58 percent, according to Pritzker.
Both Scott Weiner of Fifty/50 Restaurant Group (Utopian Tailgate, Roots Pizza) and Alpana Singh (Terra & Vine) told Crain’s that they have legal and ethical questions. They’re among a number of Chicago-area restaurant owners who are skeptical about asking about medical records; the U.S. is not distributing vaccination passports. That leaves room for the possibility of falsified records. There’s also concern over potentially violating federal health care privacy laws. This feels, in some ways, like a logistical nightmare for overburdened restaurant owners.
There are operators in favor of the rule, like Meg Sahs, co-owner of Italian restaurant Monteverde in West Loop. She says every bit of revenue helps.
And in other news...
— The pandemic may have brought plans to revamp Bridgeport’s historic Ramova Theater to a screeching halt last year, but now local developer One Revival Chicago aims to fully restore and preserve the crumbling 90-year-old venue in accordance with National Historical Landmark restoration guidelines. Project partners include Duck Inn chef and owner Kevin Hickey, who plans to bring back the Ramova Grill, which closed in 2012 after 82 years, with outdoor spaces like a beer garden. The Tribune has more.
— Block Club Chicago highlights the work of South Side native Michael “Chef Mike” Airhart, who has spent eight years feeding unhoused Chicagoans through his nonprofit, Taste for the Homeless. Prior to the pandemic, Airhart transported his patrons to events with food and clothingstyled after Taste of Chicago; now he pops up around the city and suburbs in his van with burgers, Polish sausages, and more. Donors can support Taste for the Homeless online.
— A local food entrepreneur that once worked as general counsel for famed three-Michelin star restaurant Alinea is finding success in her own right with line of healthy frozen waffles, according to Chicago Biz Journals. Emily Groden in 2019 launched Evergreen, featuring waffles with whole grain flour, almond milk, and honey in place of refined sugar and artificial flavors. They first hit shelves in Bucktown and can now be found at Whole Foods, Foxtrot, Sunset Foods, and other retailers throughout the Midwest.