Chicago restaurant owners and city officials celebrate the lifting of mask mandates
Masks were off and vaccination cards were unchecked inside the Dearborn on Monday as owners celebrated the lifting of some COVID-19 mandates by sharing lunch with two senior city officials.
“I’m happy to say we pulled it off – it’s been a very long and stressful two years.” said Clodagh Lawless, co-owner of The Dearborn. “Obviously the bigger picture is the health and safety of every person in our communities and in the United States; however, it is a reality that our health and well-being depend on our livelihoods. And our livelihood has been taken away from us.
Lawless said the past two months have been particularly bad for business as the Omicron variant took hold of the city over the holidays and drove up cases and hospitalizations. Then they were forced to check vaccination cards at the beginning of the year.
If they turned one person down, that was too much, she said.
But Monday’s lunch with Ken Meyer, commissioner of the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, and Dr. Jennifer Seo, chief medical director of the city’s Department of Public Health, signaled a much-needed change. , she said.
“Although we still haven’t agreed with the decisions that have been made, clearly, but we understand the ‘why’ and the ‘why’ is why we are here today,” said Lawless.
Chicago lifted its mask mandate and proof of vaccine requirement in most settings this week, leaving companies free to implement their own rules. People are still required to wear a mask in certain places like on public transportation or in health care facilities.
Meyer said it was a “big day” in Chicago, with masks becoming optional in most settings.
“Although the government no longer requires it, I hope everyone will respect others’ choice to wear a mask,” Meyer said.
Meyer said he walked around the Loop on Monday morning and noticed a 60/40 split of people wearing a mask versus those not wearing one.
Seo said the city will continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding its evolving coronavirus policy. She pointed out that Chicago is now in a good position.
“Here in the city of Chicago, we are at low risk, which is why we can make masks optional in our public spaces,” Seo said. “We will continue to assess the situation and if anything changes from our recommendations, we will of course ensure that our Chicago residents are kept informed.”
At Beatrix’s in River North, hostess Jordan Johnson said she showed up to work on Monday wearing a mask and then took it off as the day progressed.
“We are kind of leaving it optional. Some of our colleagues are wearing masks and we don’t really put limits on guests anymore. We have stopped checking vaccinations. It’s very sudden and very weird.
“If it were up to me, I think I would at least maintain the mask mandate,” she said.
Camila Johnson said she was comfortable not wearing a mask in Beatrix for lunch with friends Aline Miranda, Barbara Bouquet and Bouquet’s 10-month-old daughter.
“It depends on the situation,” Johnson, 31, said. “Like I was grocery shopping, I don’t think I would feel completely safe talking to someone without a mask on.”
Seoul Taco manager Nada Jackson said most customers came in Monday wearing masks.
“Yeah, honestly, better safe than sorry when it’s crowded, but I mean, if everyone is vaccinated, that shouldn’t be a problem,” Jackson said. “But I have a new baby at home, so I’m going to keep mine.”