Craig Richardson, managing owner of Lincoln Park’s Batter and Berries, has followed the advice of experts throughout the ever-changing dynamics of the coronavirus pandemic.
When the state initially shut everything down, he listened. When social distancing guidelines were enacted, he listened. And when it was time to put on masks, and later get vaccinated, he listened.
“We just tried to follow the advice of the science and experts and stayed in our lanes,” Richardson said Thursday. “If they tell us it is necessary for saving lives, then it’s necessary and we are going to follow whatever recommendations might come.”
Now he is eagerly ready to follow the latest moves from the state and city lifting both mask mandates and proof-of-vaccination checks.
“We are going to go with the city guidelines because we’ve trusted the experts and if they say it is OK, we just have to trust that,” Richardson said. “So we won’t be requiring any masks or checking vaccine cards or nothing like that. Whatever the city says we are going to follow.”
On Monday, Chicago will lift the last remaining COVID mitigations that have dictated to business owners how — or even if — they can serve customers for the better part of two years. While the state is getting rid of its most recent indoor mask mandate — which has been in place since August — the city is also dropping a proof-of-vaccination requirement to get into restaurants, bars, gyms and some other businesses after less than two months in effect.
Since the city will still allow individual businesses to implement their own rules, it’s probably best to keep a mask and vax card in your pocket.
“It’s hard to say what is normal anymore these days, but I hope this is a step in that direction,” Richardson said. “You really don’t know because last summer these restrictions were easing and then we had the Delta variant, which was then followed by Omicron, so we plan on taking it day by day and being ready to change quickly if we have to.”
Gianluca Pesce, a spokesman for the breakfast restaurant Yolk, said it has been operating as a “mask optional” establishment in its Florida and Texas locations for some time and are looking forward to transitioning their Chicago locations to do the same.
“We have been anticipating the city’s change in requirements and agree with the timeline,” Pesce said. “We will transition all locations to ‘mask optional.’ All other new sanitizing procedures and safety protocols that we implemented during Covid will stay in place for now.”
A Planet Fitness spokesperson said they followed all local and state mandates in each of their gyms across the country, so they will be dropping previous restrictions here, too.
“We welcome our members, guests, and staff to wear a mask if they choose to,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
But at Club Pilates’ fitness centers, they will continue recommending patrons wear masks — and will require proof of vaccinations for people who wants to work out without one.
The Adler Planetarium has largely been closed for the duration of the pandemic with the exception of a few weeks, but a spokeswoman said it will follow the timeline set forth by the state and city.
“As of today, we plan to open on March 4 without the mask and COVID vaccine mandates,” Jennifer Howell, spokeswoman for the planetarium said in a statement.
The Shedd Aquarium will also follow suit and “lifting the mask and vaccination requirements for guests” Monday, said spokeswoman Kayley Ciocci. “Guests and staff may continue to wear masks in the aquarium for a variety of reasons, so please continue to be kind and considerate of others.”
Meanwhile, many theaters in the area said they intend to keep the vaccine and mask requirements in place for the foreseeable future.
Some businesses, however, are still trying to figure out what to do under the new guidelines from the city.
Chicago Walgreens stores, for example, are still reviewing the company’s masking policy, a spokesperson said Thursday.