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Rossi’s, the River North Dive Bar, Mandates Vaccines for Customers

Also, a Lincoln Square bakery is experimenting with reusable carryout containers

A dive bar’s exterior.
Rossi’s has a new policy.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

Rossi’s Liquors, one of the few dive bars left in Downtown Chicago, is requiring customers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. A sign posted outside the bar has been making its way through Chicago Twitter and stirring up the debate on mandatory vaccines within the hospitality industry.

The bar is located in River North, and that means the tavern draws more than locals. Tourists, including those from places that have looser COVID-19 restrictions, are likely to walk in to have a drink. That brings different expectations when it comes to safety, and much of that is politically fueled. Rossi’s is establishing its own guidelines to create a comfortable space for its local customers and employees. As Chicago writer Ernest Wilkins states, “the best bar in America just got better.”

New York City requires bar and restaurant patrons to show proof of vaccination as a condition of entry. The policy went into effect on August 16, though not all venues are enforcing the policy. San Francisco has also enacted its own mandate.

Earlier this week, a group of local restaurants with conservative-leaning owners called a news conference to voice their opposition against such a policy in Chicago. The Chicago Restaurants Coalition — which last year continued to push the city to increase indoor dining capacities as the COVID-19 rate was growing — does not want Chicago to follow New York’s lead. The Sun-Times spoke with two of the group’s members who say they don’t have the resources and staff to check for proof of vaccination. They say it’s the city’s responsibility. Members include Twin Anchors Restaurant and Hawkeye’s Bar and Grill. The Illinois Restaurant Association, whose membership includes restaurant owners who are very vocal against mandates, has remained neutral on the matter.

The coalition maintains it supports vaccinations, but not as a requirement.

And in other news...

— Since the pandemic started, Baker Miller, a bakery in Lincoln Square, has, like just about every other restaurant, been going through more takeout containers than ever before. Owner Dave Miller was concerned about the environmental impact, since most of those containers are plastic and end up in landfills. Axios reports that last week Baker Miller started to rent reusable plastic containers to customers for $3. When customers return the containers, they will receive their $3 back as cash or store credit, and the containers will be washed and sanitized before they go out again.

On the first day of the experiment, Baker Miller sold all 75 of its recyclable containers. But this week, they’ve only sold 20 percent of the container inventory, and very few customers have actually brought the containers back. Miller told Axios that the effort might be more productive if other restaurants got involved, so that customers would have a choice of where to return the containers. Portland, Oregon, has had such a network since 2011.

Other chains and restaurants have initiated similar programs, including Starbucks, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Just Salad. When Hoosier Mama Pie Company first opened in 2009, it sold its pies in reusable tins because owner Paula Haney believed they helped the crust bake more evenly. But customers failed to return them, resulting in a financial loss and a permanent switch to one-use aluminum. In related news, last week the city adopted an ordinance to limit the use of disposable plasticware.

— Ándale Market in Andersonville will be holding a cookie competition on its patio today from 4 to 7 p.m. Cookie Champ features eight bakers with visitors voting for their favorite, and the winner will be sold at Ándale. The contestants are Agortles Dessert Shop, Carolyn’s Krisps, Cookies & Conversations, Foxship Bakery, Masa Madre, Salamat Cookies, Tropicake Chicago, and You’re A Cookie.

— A $240 beer from Samuel Adams that tips in at 28 percent ABV returns to stores on October 11. The brewery makes 13,000 25.4-ounce bottles of its limited-run Utopia beer every two years and it’s so potent that it’s not sold in 15 states (it will be available in Illinois). Vintage bottles sell for much more. Utopia was the official beer of Inspiration4, the all-civilian space mission that returned to Earth last week, ABC 7 reports.

A burger with lots of watercress on a plate with fries
Dos Santos burger at Good Measure
Good Measure

— River North gastropub Good Measure has a monthly burger series called Battle of the Burger Bands in which chef Matt Troost will collaborate with a local band to create a burger that represents their sound. The specials will run the last two weeks of every month. September’s burger, devised by Dos Santos, drops today and remains on the menu until October 2: it’s a Beyond burger topped with cilantro-avocado aioli, salsa de chilis torreados, watercress, and cotija cheese on a potato bun.

— In related news, local punk band Meat Wave has collaborated with Ukrainian Village pizza joint Pizza Friendly Pizza on a vegetarian (despite the band’s name) slice that will be served before their show next door at the Empty Bottle this Saturday, September 25.