Rancid at Forest Hills Stadium, 8/28 / Everynight Charley

Updates to NYC’s Vaccination Mandate for Bars, Restaurants, and Entertainment Venues

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office continues updating its Key to NYC mandate that requires dining, entertainment, and fitness facilities to permit indoor entry only to vaccinated customers. Executive Orders 225, 226, 228, and 229, issued from August 16 to August 30, sequentially added further guidance. The latest complete promulgation, Executive Order 228, was published August 25. The newest promulgation, Executive Order 229, published on August 30, added very little.

De Blasio originally announced during a media advisory on August 3 that New York would become the first major city in the United States to require customers at indoor dining, entertainment, and fitness facilities to show proof of COVID vaccination for entry. The mayor’s policy became mandatory procedure on August 16, with inspections and enforcement scheduled to begin on September 13. Executive Order 225, published on August 16, formalized the policy.

In its latest revision, Section 1 of Executive Order 228 specified that these indoor businesses “shall not permit a patron, full- or part-time employee, intern, volunteer, or contractor to enter a covered premises without displaying proof of vaccination and identification bearing the same identifying information as the proof of vaccination.” Section 2 allows for selected exemptions, including “individuals entering for a quick and limited purpose (for example, using the restroom, placing or picking up an order or service, changing clothes in a locker room, or performing necessary repairs)” and “a nonresident performing artist not regularly employed by the covered entity, or a nonresident individual accompanying such a performing artist, while the performing artist or individual is in a covered premises for the purposes of such artist’s performance.” These individuals may enter the indoor venue without displaying proof of vaccination, “provided that such individuals wear a face mask at all times when they are unable to maintain six (6) feet of distance from other individuals inside the covered premises.” 

Section 4 directs the indoor establishments to “develop and keep a written record describing the covered entity’s protocol for implementing and enforcing the requirements of this section.” The venue operators also must post a sign that notifies employees and patrons about the vaccination requirement. This sign must be posted “in a conspicuous place that is viewable by prospective patrons prior to entering the establishment.” The executive order regulates the size and format of the signage.

Section 4 also stipulates the penalties on violators. Numerous agencies can police the venues and issue fines. The penalties would become effective starting on September 13.

The Key to NYC’s eight-page FAQ section also was updated on August 25. This section clarifies for food establishments that the Key to NYC requirements do not apply to any outdoor portions of the establishment. For instance, if a food establishment with indoor and outdoor areas can limit an employee’s work area to only the outdoor portion of the establishment, or seat guests outside, those employees do not need to show proof of vaccination. Customers seated outside also do not need to show proof of vaccination.

The city government made resources available for venue operators. These include small business service guides, webinars, videos, posters and literature. Some resources are available in many languages.

Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, issued a statement regarding New York City’s vaccine mandate for indoor dining. The agency posted the statement on social media on August 16.

“The Delta variant is top of mind as many industries grapple with the best way to navigate the concern, but the restaurant industry is once again being targeted,” the statement reads. “Restrictions and policies that place the burden on bars and restaurants who never recouped lost revenue from the last 16 months will undoubtedly create more challenges. Many operators cannot afford to lose employees and revenue due to constraints that threaten to decrease much needed business. Our government must continue to keep in mind the drawback this will create for an industry that is still struggling.”

Outdoor restaurants are not required to follow the Key to NYC mandate. Thus, if a restaurant has an curbside shed that is fully open on the sidewalk side, it will not fall under the Key to NYC regulations. The unvaccinated are welcome to dine at unenclosed sidewalk tables as well. 

Outdoor concert venues also do not need to comply with Key to NYC vaccination requirements. The venue operators for SummerStage Central Park, Forest Hills Stadium and the Prospect Park Bandshell have implemented vaccination policies, however. Ticketholders for all the upcoming music festivals, including Governors Ball and Global Citizen, also will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter the event sites.

Compliance seems to be in order in New York’s smaller venues. Now midway through a four-week grace period, bars, restaurants and live music venues quickly acclimated to the regulations. Many bars already had security at the door that checked customers’ identification for age verification; now they ask for vaccination documentation as well. One East Village bar has a chalk board on the sidewalk informing customers to show proof of vaccination to the bartender upon entry. Restrictions will be more carefully observed once the regulations are enforced on September 13.