Chicago restaurant eyes ‘vaccinated’ and ‘unvaccinated’ dining sections as restrictions lift

May 24, 2021

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Chicago is allowing bars, restaurants and even dance floors to reopen at normal capacity with no restrictions like mask-wearing or social distancing, as long as everyone present is vaccinated. To make it easier for everyone to continue to dine out, one restaurant has created separate sections for those who are inoculated and those who aren’t.

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Starting this weekend, Moe’s Cantina will require proof of vaccination in exchange for a pink wristband that will allow access to the area for patrons who have received their shots. Employees working in those areas must be vaccinated, too.

Moe’s Cantina River North owner Sam Sanchez shows what the vaccinated section will look like. Restaurant patrons can dine on the side of the establishment closest to the bar if they show proof that they’ve had their shots. (Screenshot courtesy of CBS Chicago)


Under the city’s new guidelines, customers who have had their shots will be permitted at the bar and at tables on one side of the restaurant, while anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated — or who doesn’t provide proof — can sit in a special section where masks are required (unless seated) and dividers create partitions between tables.

“That’s the direction we want to go to get back to normal,” Moe’s owner and Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Sanchez told CBS Chicago.

Throughout the pandemic, the city has held nearly 50 webinars reaching nearly 5,000 attendees in an effort to keep the hospitality sector informed of the latest operating guidelines.

“…for the first time we are providing recommendations instead of formal requirements as it relates to mask wearing,” Chicago‘s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said in a statement.

CDC Vaccine card and masks
Many states are relaxing mask mandates for people who are fully vaccinated. (Photo by Michael Siluk/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

As of May 13, (CDC) says vaccinated people can go without masks in most indoor settings. Across the country, states are looking for ways to operate in a less restrictive way, which increasingly involves the relaxation of mandatory mask-wearing policies in public places.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 11 states never had mask mandates in the first place; 18 of the states that did have them have fully lifted them per federal, state and local guidelines.

Some restaurants, like this one in Dallas, don’t require masks. (Photos by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

Texas, for example, removed its mask mandate in March, leaving decisions about masks up to individual restaurants. (Over the weekend, TPG Executive Editor Scott Mayerowitz shared photos, above, from a crowded restaurant in Dallas, no masks required.)

Florida, notorious for its lax COVID-19 rules, never had an official statewide mask mandate. Some counties opted to impose them, but all local requirements were wiped out by an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis on May 3. Meanwhile, on May 19, New York completely got rid of its mask mandates for anyone who’s vaccinated.

Coming out of more than a year of isolation, people are excited to leave home, whether it’s to travel or simply to enjoy dining out. That, combined with increased vaccination rates and the relaxation of precautions that kept some people away, has led to increased capacity all around — at restaurants, theme parks, shopping malls and even on flights.

Featured photo by Gian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography/Getty Images.

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