highland park

Highland Park City Council Extends Proof-of-Vaccination Order

Several restaurants have urged the city to remove the order that requires staff to check vaccination status

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Highland Park's city council on Monday decided to extend a temporary order requiring proof of vaccination.

The order requiring proof of vaccination for "on-premise dining establishment" began Jan. 7 and was extended to Feb. 14 at the council's meeting Monday night.

"It is January so we’re not setting any records, but at the same time, we’re losing anywhere from 15-30 people a day," said Jim Lederer, who owns Bluegrass Restaurant.

Lederer and other restaurant owners say the mandate is hurting their bottom line and leading to many customers going elsewhere to eat.

"Since Highland Park is the only community outside of Cook County in the state of Illinois, leave it as a level playing field. Nobody else is. So, why should we?"

Currently, restaurants that don't comply with the order are first issued a warning. If another complaint is received, an inspector visits the property and a notice of violation may be formally issued. A citation may be issued to businesses who fail to comply, up to $750, according to the city.

"I don't understand their purpose in trying to do this to the businesses. It's mind boggling to me. And it's upsetting," said Jeff Gorbena, who owns Tamales a Mexican Joint.

"Since, the pandemic started we’re down at least 50% on the whole. It's brutal out here," said Gorbena.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 82.39% of Highland Park residents are fully vaccinated. And at Tamales, there are signs on tables that say their staff is fully vaccinated. But, Gorbena says, it comes down to freedom and choice.

"I believe 100% that plays a large part in people going elsewhere for their dining wants and needs," he said.

"I've had people specifically reach out and say they feel bad, sorry they’re not coming in. They’re only going to what they would call a 'free village' or a 'free city.' Highland Park just sees it differently."

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