The owner of Once Upon a Bagel in Highland Park was one of several people to speak out against a proof of vaccination mandate that the Highland Park City Council passed in late December. | Photo: Google Street View

All customers ages 5 and older are now required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter businesses that offer food and drink in Highland Park after an order went into effect today.

The Highland Park City Council passed an order on December 29 that requires certain businesses to check proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all patrons, including everyone age 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, Chicago, Skokie and Evanston.

“Temporarily requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for on-premises dining, where masks are removed for extended periods of time, balances the need to take action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our area with the strong desire to support our local business community in remaining open for service,” the City of Highland Park said in a statement on Friday.

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The Highland Park order went into effect Friday and applies to restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars, including fast food and fast-casual establishments.

It also applies 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.

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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 December 29 city council meeting.

Steve Geffen, who owns Once Upon a Bagel in Highland Park, said the order will put 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.

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“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.