Philly’s indoor dining vaccine mandate now fully in effect

People seated at the bar inside a restaurant.

People are seated at the bar inside a restaurant. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

This story originally appeared on 6abc.

A negative COVID-19 test is no longer a free pass to eat indoors in Philadelphia.

Starting Tuesday, the city is requiring customers age 12 and over to show proof they’ve received two doses of the vaccine.

The grace period, which began on Monday, Jan. 3, allowed restaurants to choose to accept proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry for people who were not fully vaccinated. But that two-week exception has ended and almost everyone eating indoors in Philadelphia needs to be vaccinated.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

As of Friday, just over 78 percent of adults were fully vaccinated in Philadelphia.

That means 22 percent of adults can’t step foot in a restaurant to sit down and dine.

Also unwelcome are the unvaccinated visitors who often come in from around the tri-state area.

“An acceptable COVID-19 vaccine is one that has been authorized or approved by either the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization to prevent COVID-19, whether for emergency use or otherwise,” the city said.

City officials say boosters are not required to be considered fully vaccinated.

This mandate applies to the following settings that serve food:

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
  • Indoor restaurant spaces
  • Cafes within larger spaces (like museums)
  • Bars
  • Sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption
  • Movie theaters
  • Bowling alleys
  • Other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption
  • Conventions (if food is being served)
  • Catering halls
  • Casinos where food and drink is allowed on the floor
  • Food court seating areas should be cordoned off and have someone checking vaccine status on entry to the seating area

Unmasked and unvaccinated customers are still permitted at outdoor dining sites. The city says diners must wear a mask when going indoors to use the bathroom.

Restaurants are still fine-tuning the process of efficiently checking the vaccination status of customers while juggling the task of trying to stay open amid staff shortages.

Workers and children ages 5 years and 3 months through 11 will have until February 3 to complete their series of shots.

The city says the mandate does not apply in K-12 and early childcare settings, hospitals, congregate care facilities, special population providers that serve food, residential or healthcare facilities, grocery stores, convenience stores, or other establishments that primarily sell food and drink for offsite use, or in Philadelphia International Airport, except in traditional seated restaurant or seated bar-style locations.

People with proof of valid religious or medical exemptions and children under five years and three months are exempt from the mandate.

Get the WHYY app!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal