WEST TOWN – West Town’s Irish Nobleman Pub is temporarily closing until January, after owners said they had not had enough time to adjust to new rules requiring guests to be vaccinated against COVID -19.
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is now required for customers entering bars, restaurants, gyms and certain other indoor businesses in Chicago. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the policy on Dec. 21 and it went into effect Monday, but the owners of the neighborhood pub, 1367 W. Erie St., say it wasn’t enough time to prepare. Cook County has also implemented this requirement since.
“A few days is not enough to find a financially or logistically sound solution for many small restaurants to implement this new Chicago and Cook County mandate,” the bar owners wrote last week in a post on the Company Website.
Irish Nobleman owner Declan Morgan said after the town’s announcement he tried to hire a doorman to check vaccination cards at the bar, initially at $ 15 an hour , then to $ 20 – but did not get “one answer”.
Morgan said he and his staff were concerned about enforcing the vaccination warrant themselves, after some patrons violently responded to employees asking them to wear a mask inside the bar.
“We had a customer spat in the face of a waiter, we had fights where we were assaulted,” he said. “Now to ask people, ‘hey, let me check your immunization record’, I just didn’t feel safe enough. “
Morgan said the bar would likely reopen on February 1 and then check vaccination cards upon entry.
There have been mixed reactions to the requirement, similar to actions taken in New York and Los Angeles. Some wondered why it hadn’t started sooner, especially as cases increased due to the Delta variant until the fall. But some restaurateurs have urged city hall to extend the deadline, saying the demand weighs on a struggling industry that cannot afford more spending without additional government support.
Like Irish Nobleman, owners of Tacotlán in Hermosa also cannot afford the extra bandwidth to check vaccination cards. They have decided to move on to directing only for now.
The requirement for the vaccination record is not the only strain for Irish Nobleman, Morgan said. Like many bars and restaurants in Chicago, the Irish Nobleman dramatically increased its outdoor dining capacity in 2020, receiving permission from the city to place people outside last winter.
But Morgan said the bar’s outdoor dining license expired in October and the city had not responded to requests for extensions during the winter months through 2022.
“We spent almost $ 50,000 to expand the patio, heaters and electricity, tents and walls,” Morgan said. “We asked the city: can we continue the enlarged patio for November, December and January? “They wouldn’t even answer us,” he said.
A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Business and Consumer Protection, which licenses sidewalk cafes for bars and restaurants, did not return a request for comment.
Morgan said he would continue to pay staff and other operating expenses until January, which is typically one of the bar’s slowest months.
“We’re going to feel it. The Direct TV bill is still coming in, gas and electricity and all the bills, we pay everything out of our pocket, ”he said. “Overall with this pandemic the price of everything has gone up, from meat which has gone up over 200% to plastic cups and dishes… everything has become more expensive to operate.”
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