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Where vaccine rates lag, some restaurants feel mandate pinch; others see sales rise with comfort levels

Josh Noel, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

Preparing for the worst, she paused indoor dining and only offered food to-go when the mandate began Jan. 3.

According to a dozen restaurant owners interviewed across the city, customer reaction appears to be following vaccination rates: Those in more highly vaccinated areas are navigating the mandate more easily than those in lower-vaccinated areas.

Mike Zar, the fourth-generation owner of Daley’s Restaurant in the Woodlawn neighborhood, said business was down at least 30% during the first weekend of the mandate. Sunday morning is usually his busiest time of the week as post-church crowds funnel in, and 20-minute waits for a table are common, even in winter.

On Sunday, he said, he didn’t bother opening one of his three dining rooms, which in normal times would be packed. In the Daley’s ZIP code, 60637, 51% of people are fully vaccinated, city data says. Neighboring ZIP codes 60621 and 60649 have even lower vaccination rates; both are under 46%.

During the first few days of the vaccine mandate, Zar said, business was down 80% as he regularly turned away “parties of five or six people, and one doesn’t have a card, and they all leave.”

Though awareness of the mandate seems to have improved, he said, he’s still turning away business.

 

“One minute I’m frustrated, and the next minute I understand,” he said.

The city, Zar said, “is doing the right thing. It just comes at an expense for everyone.”

The expense is often less marked on the other side of the city.

Uncommon Ground’s Lakeview location, which is in one of the highest-vaccinated ZIP codes — 60613, where 77% of people are fully vaccinated — saw business go up during the first weekend of the vaccine mandate.

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