These public establishments, according to the city announcement, include indoor restaurants, cafes within larger spaces (like museums), bars, sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption, and other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption, etc.
During the first two weeks of the rule’s implementation, from Jan. 3 to 17, various indoor public spaces may accept a customer’s negative COVID-19 test result within 24 hours instead of proof of vaccination. However, beginning Jan. 18, only fully vaccinated patrons will be allowed to dine inside these establishments. Owners of establishments in violation of the mandate will face fines of up to $2,000 per day.
Philadelphians have mixed reactions to the city’s vaccine mandate announcement. Restaurateurs fear that their businesses, already hit hard by the pandemic over the past year, will suffer more.
Drew Young, the general manager of Mei Mei, an Asian restaurant in the Old City area of Philadelphia, told The Epoch Times that his restaurant reopened after being closed for a year during the pandemic.
Young disagrees with the city of Philadelphia’s mandatory vaccine order. He is concerned that the vaccine order will again turn away customers. “They hit us with different mandates every other month, and now we have to wait for Jan. 3 to have even less business inside. … Anytime you think it’s gonna get better, they come out with another mandate, and you know, make it hard for us,” Young told The Epoch Times.
Young argues that vaccines have a limited role in containing the development of the pandemic or virus variants. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen that people who are fully vaccinated with booster shots have been catching COVID, getting seriously ill from it,” Young said. “It doesn’t look like the vaccine is helping very much.”
Young told The Epoch Times that the mandatory vaccine order seems to be invasive and makes those who try to work to support their families and keep their businesses afloat suffer.
Young emphasized that an indoor dining vaccine order would force more restaurants to open outdoor seating, which doesn’t work in the cold winter months. “Look at all these restaurants that never had outdoor seating. They all have outdoor seating because they couldn’t seat people indoors. They’re losing money all winter long because people don’t want to eat outside in the cold. I just don’t think it’s very fair,” he said.
Young believes that customers should still dine indoors if they have a good reason not to get vaccinated. Business operations should not be directly affected by the vaccine mandate.
Ganne Lanuza, the manager of a dessert store in a food court close to Philadelphia’s historic landmark—the Liberty Bell, told The Epoch Times that business is still bad for them. “This is a touristy spot. So, people who come here are tourists. So like, strict travel guidelines, and if they don’t follow it, they can’t even go off the plane. And then that impacts us because they’re our main customers,” she said.
George Bahnke, a tourist from Florida, said that although he has been vaccinated, he disagrees with the government’s mandatory vaccine order. “I’m against the government telling us what to do. And taking away our freedoms, especially our body,” he told The Epoch Times.
Grace, a Philadelphia college student, told The Epoch Times that mandatory vaccination in the restaurant industry is a good idea because it “provides a good incentive for people to actually get vaccinated, which would really raise the vaccination rates.”
With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, more cities are implementing vaccine mandates, including tourist hotspots such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and Washington.