Multiple cities and villages in Lake County are considering proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for businesses as the City of Highland Park’s order is set to go into effect this coming week.
The Highland Park City Council passed an order on Wednesday that will require certain businesses to check proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all patrons, including children 5 and older.
The city council voted 6-1 to pass the motion to impose the requirement.
The emergency order is similar to the ones issued in Cook County and the City of Chicago.
Unlike Cook County, Lake County is a non-home rule county and does not have the authority to enact a countywide order that would cover all Lake County municipalities.
Deerfield, Waukegan, Buffalo Grove and North Chicago are all considering or discussing implementing a similar mandate in their municipalities, officials said.
The Highland Park order will go into effect on Friday, January 7, and require all individuals age 5 and older to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter on-premise food and drink establishments.
The order will apply to restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars, including fast food and fast-casual establishments.
It will also apply to indoor entertainment venues where food and drinks are served, such as movie theatres, live performance spaces, sports arenas, arcades, bowling alleys and other establishments.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said the order was proposed in an effort to combat the rise in COVID-19 cases in the area.
Rotering said that employees of businesses in Highland Park can either provide proof of vaccination to their employer or get a COVID test every week.
“I think this will help restaurants,” said Highland Park Council Member Kim Stone. She said that people will be more likely to go out to restaurants knowing everyone is vaccinated.
Andres Tapia was the lone council member to vote against the motion.
He said he does not think the mandate will do enough and claimed that the COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. (Tapia later said in a statement to Lake and McHenry County Scanner that he encourages residents to get vaccinated as he does believe they prevent serious illness and death).
Tapia also said it will harm Highland Park businesses because neighboring communities do not have the mandate.
Several Highland Park business owners spoke out against the order during the Wednesday city council meeting.
Steve Geffen, who owns Once Upon a Bagel in Highland Park, said the order will be putting his business in a difficult position.
“It’s a really unfortunate position you are putting us in. I believe this will put restaurants in jeopardy of going out of business,” Geffen told the city council members.
“I am really worried what is going to happen to my business. We are already short-staffed as it is. Why can’t you let people make their own decision?” Geffen asked.
Rotering said that she did not think that checking vaccine cards was burdensome, calling it a “non-event.”
City Manager Ghida Neukirch said that educating businesses will be a priority to ensure compliance. She encouraged residents to contact City Hall if they see violations.
Neukirch said city staff will do a phone call follow-up with the business in question and a subsequent violation would result in an inspector being sent to the establishment.
Further violations would result in a written notice and then eventually a citation, carrying a fine of $25-$750, to be issued. The citation would require an administrative hearing.