Evanston businesses react to vaccine mandate


by Olivia Abeyta

Starting Jan. 10, entertainment, fitness and food businesses must solicit the vaccination record of their patrons upon entry. Businesses supported the decision, but they also anticipated challenges.

Gwen Setia, Reporter

A new COVID-19 vaccination mandate for businesses in Evanston went into effect Monday. 

The order, issued by the city Dec. 30, 2021, requires that gyms, restaurants and entertainment establishments verify proof of full vaccination upon entry for customers ages 5 years and older. The order defines full vaccination as two weeks after two doses of either a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The mandate follows a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Evanston and throughout the Chicago area. Many Evanston establishments have shifted to require proof of vaccination or provide online offerings over the past few weeks as cases continue to rise.

After months of dancing in-person, Chicago Ballet Arts returned to offering hybrid-style dance classes. Artistic and Executive Director Maliwan Diemer said about 30% of the students who registered for their Adult Winter Workshop held over New Year’s weekend were unable to attend due to pandemic-related reasons. 

The mandate’s original wording allowed for exemptions to the mandate for K-12 afterschool and recreational programs, but it left ambiguity about which businesses and programs qualified. This created uncertainty for some businesses, prompting the city to post a revision on Jan. 6 — just four days before the order was set to go into effect. The revision clarified some people exempt from the mandate, including K-12 students attending after-school programs or participating in athletics or recreation programs.

Diemer said it felt challenging to navigate the mandate’s timing and its implications for the studio’s youth programs. 

“The timing left us a very short window to confirm with our families and implement our plans before the order went into effect,” Diemer said. 

Susan Trieschmann, executive director of Curt’s Cafe, said the order would protect her employees, who are mainly students. Trieschmann said she thinks the mandate is “the right thing” to keep everyone healthy.

Still, she said she worries about losing customers in the short term due to the mandate.

“People won’t want to go out and be hassled with it, so it will slow down our sales tremendously,” Trieschmann said. “But I think we all just have to deal with it for another three-month period, and then hopefully, it’ll be under control.”

Some businesses were not affected by the mandate. Christopher Pazdernik, managing and casting director of performing arts venue Theo Ubique Cabaret Theater, said theaters in the Chicago area had already chosen to require proof of vaccination beginning in the fall season. 

Pazdernik said his greatest challenge so far has been reminding people to have their vaccination cards ready.

“Some people come up and they’re scrolling through six months of photos on their phone,” Pazdernik said. “You want to trust people of course, but I also have to protect the safety of everybody in the building. So if they can’t provide it, we offer to reschedule them for a different day, but we can’t let them stay.” 

Ultimately, several Evanston businesses favored the mandate, feeling that it was the right step toward keeping the community safe and healthy.

“I was so happy to see it because, honestly, it felt like it should’ve been put in place a long time ago,” Pazdernik said. 

A previous version of this article misstated Diemer’s reaction to the mandate. The Daily regrets the error.


Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @GwenSetia

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