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Belmont Cragin, Hermosa

Hermosa Restaurant Shifts To Carryout Due To Vax Card Mandate: ‘It’s Difficult Enough To Ask Them To Wear A Mask’

Requiring patrons to provide proof of vaccination is too much for family-owned Tacotlán, co-owner Jessica Perjes said. The restaurant is now only open for carryout and delivery.

Tacotlan, 4312 W. Fullerton Ave.
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HERMOSA — At least one local restaurant is no longer allowing indoor dining ahead of a city mandate to check vaccination cards at indoor businesses.

The owners of Tacotlán, 4312 W. Fullerton Ave. in Hermosa, shut down the restaurant to dine-in patrons this week because of the city’s safety measure and as Chicago battles its worst-ever surge of COVID-19.

Starting Monday, Chicago businesses like restaurants, bars, gyms and event venues must verify their customers are fully vaccinated before allowing them inside. In a video posted to Instagram this week, Tacotlán co-owner Jessica Perjes said asking diners for proof of vaccination is too much for the family-owned restaurant.

For now, the restaurant only will offer carryout and delivery, Perjes said.

“We honestly don’t have the time nor the bandwidth to be asking you all for these cards, so in order to avoid any issues, we just are going to move to carryout [and delivery] only,” she said.

The requirement, similar to measures in New York City and Los Angeles, has gotten a mixed reaction. Some residents pushing for vaccine mandates questioned why it’s not starting even sooner. Sam Toia, Illinois Restaurant Association president, previously said his organization had negotiated the requirement with city officials to get “as business-friendly mitigations as they could get.”

But the requirement has also drawn opposition from some restaurant owners. In a letter to City Hall, a group of about 30 restaurants said the requirement burdens a struggling industry that cannot afford more expenses without added support from the government.

RELATED: Proof Of COVID-19 Vaccine Required For Chicago Bars, Restaurants, Gyms Starting Jan. 3. Here’s What To Know

Perjes, who spoke Tuesday, said the mandate poses financial and logistical challenges for her business.

For one, the restaurant staff would need to have someone checking vaccine cards at the door, and the only way to do that would be to pull from current staff to do the job or hire someone, Perjes said. Neither is plausible given the financial constraints of the small business, she said.

“I need a cook more than a person handling the vaccination cards,” Perjes said.

Second, but equally as important, checking vaccination cards would put an even greater strain on Perjes’ family and employees, who’ve struggled to implement other safety precautions to keep themselves and patrons safe over the past two years, she said.

“It’s difficult enough to ask [customers] to wear a mask,” she said. “Some people who are from the city, they’re very good about wearing masks, but people coming in from out of town — from Wisconsin and Indiana — they come in without masks and I have to be the bad guy and be like, ‘Where’s your mask?'”

Perjes and her father, Everardo Macias, opened Tacotlán in 2018. Since then, the restaurant has become a go-to spot for authentic Mexican food, drawing a slew of neighbors and out-of-towners.

While the pandemic has been challenging, Perjes said they’ve seen an uptick in business this year, thanks in part to their wildly popular beef birria, including their quesabirria, a crispy taco with slow-cooked beef, cheese and other fillings.

The decision to shut down for dine-in service could hurt Tacotlán, Perjes said. Patrons often order more when they dine in, and they typically prefer their tacos served hot right off the grill, she said.

But Perjes said turning the restaurant into a carryout and delivery operation for a few weeks or months is the best and only way forward for the family business. So far, reactions have been mixed, with some customers saying they “don’t want to provide their medical history” when eating out, she said.

“I’m vaccinated, and I want to protect my staff, I want to stay safe … but I don’t want to be the person to turn away business, especially in our slow season, so I’m kinda in the middle, in between,” Perjes said.

Other restaurants also are turning to carryout and delivery to keep people safe amid the sharp uptick in cases. Chicago Bagel Authority, Jeff & Judes and Lula Cafe are among them.

Perjes said she plans to reopen their restaurant to dine-in customers once COVID-19 numbers have improved “and the city is under control.” In the meantime, she urged Chicagoans to support her restaurant and other small businesses across the city.

“Keep supporting small businesses because we’re the ones that are going to be impacted the most,” she said.

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