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How Are Chicagoans Reacting to the Restaurant Vaccination Mandate?

Also, local pizza landmark Gullivers to close this weekend after more than half a century in West Ridge

A man in red eyeglasses, face mask, and apron crosses his arms in front of a restaurant sign
Restaurant and bar owners are now required to ask patrons for proof of vaccine.
Garrett Sweet

It’s been nearly two weeks since Chicago instituted its vaccine mandate in bars and restaurants for diners age 5 and older, and results have been varied. Some restaurant owners report that customers have come back because they feel safer knowing that everyone is vaccinated, while others report hostility and even violence.

The most extreme case was at El Trebol Liquors and Bar in Pilsen on January 9 when, Block Club reports, a group of customers who had been turned away because a member of the party was unvaccinated returned to vandalize the store, shattering the glass on the front door, and threaten the manager with a knife. The manager was unharmed but shaken. He was frustrated, he told Block Club, that the city has placed the burden on checking vaccine cards on restaurant staff. “The mayor puts us [workers] on the front line of this,” he said. “This is how crazy this is, these people aren’t respectful. … [The mayor is] putting us in danger.”

The Tribune canvassed restaurants owners throughout the city to check in on how different spots are experiencing the mandate. Unsurprisingly, it varies based on economics. Affluent mostly-white North Side neighborhoods report higher percentages of vaccinated residents than less wealthy South and West Side neighborhoods, where shots are harder to find and where the Black and Latinx population tends to be wary of vaccines because of past medical discrimination. (Other cities with vaccination mandates, including L.A., have seen a similar mixed reaction.)

Restaurant owners in Grand Crossing and Woodlawn told the Tribune that business has gone down dramatically, either because customers are actively hostile to the idea of a vaccine mandate or because entire parties have to be turned away because one person isn’t vaccinated. On the North Side, meanwhile, restaurateurs said that they experienced much more pushback from customers when they independently required proof of vaccination; the citywide mandate “leveled the playing field,” one said, and makes both staff and customers feel more comfortable.

Gullivers Pizza & Pub, a pizza landmark in West Ridge, to close Sunday after 56 years

Gullivers, the neighborhood pizzeria that’s served hoards of loyal patrons for more than half a century, is slated to permanently close after service on Sunday, January 16, at 2727 W. Howard Street in West Ridge, according to Block Club. A new restaurateur has purchased the business and its building, which have been on the market since 2019, general manager George Gamilis told reporters. The expansive, 350-seat restaurant packed with antiques is known for pan pies and it’s also a slice of local pizza history: it was founded in 1965 by Jerry Freeman and Burt Katz, and while the partnership didn’t last, Katz went on to found two legends, Pequod’s in Lincoln Park and Burt’s Place in suburban Morton Grove.

Fancy steaks pile up in restaurant freezers after slow holiday sales

Restaurants have faced numerous product shortages throughout the pandemic, scrambling to snag items like yeast, pastrami, and even cream cheese. Now, some are encountering the opposite problem with a surprising ingredient: high-end cuts of beef. Northwest Meat, the supplier for well-known Chicago steak spots like Gene & Georgetti and Gibsons, has accumulated 1,500 pounds of excess meat — around $22,000 worth — in its freezers, according to Crain’s. Chef John Manion of El Che Steakhouse & Bar in West Loop can relate, telling reporters that he lost a few thousand dollars worth of beef as a spike in the omicron variant resulted in disappointing holiday sales.

An ode to the Thompson Center’s basement food court

Chicago magazine waxes poetic about the basement food court of the Loop’s architecturally reviled James R. Thompson Center, extolling the virtues affordable of chain outposts like Sbarro, Panda Express, Taco Bell, and more. In addition to cost effectiveness, Chicago argues, patrons also know what to expect: “Sbarro’s ziti is very consistent.” Lavish praise, indeed.

Officials cite 10 Chicago restaurants this month over vaccine mandate enforcement

2022 is off to a busy start for Chicago’s Department of Business and Consumer Protection (BACP), which has cited 16 businesses, including 10 restaurants, so far this month for allegedly violating the city’s vaccine mandate.

Chicago restaurants cited between Monday, January 3, and Wednesday, January 12, for pandemic rule violations include:

  • Captain Hooks, 1600 W. 13th Street
  • China Ho Restaurant, 5151 S. Pulaski Road
  • Hollywood Grill, 1601 W. North Avenue
  • Kamehachi, 1531 N. Wells Street
  • L & G Restaurant, 2632 E. 75th Street
  • La Borra Del Cafe, 10 E. Delaware Place
  • La Quebrada #3, Inc., 5100-5102 S. California Avenue
  • McDonald’s, 10 E. Chicago Avenue
  • Outdoor Grill, 3265 N. Milwaukee Avenue
  • The Halal Guys, 49 W. Division Street

Hollywood Grill

1601 West North Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 395-1818 Visit Website

La Borra Del Cafe

1700 W. Division Street, Chicago, IL Visit Website

Gene & Georgetti

500 North Franklin Street, , IL 60654 (312) 527-3718 Visit Website

Kamehachi

1531 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610 312-664-3663

El Che Steakhouse & Bar

845 West Washington Boulevard, , IL 60607 (312) 265-1130 Visit Website

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