How some suburban eateries are complying with Cook County vaccine mandate

Cook County's new proof-of-vaccination mandate seems to be something most affected businesses aren't ignoring altogether, but many are finding different ways to acknowledge its intent.

Chains like McDonald's and Portillo's were making it a point to have their cashiers check dine-in customers for proof at locations in Arlington Heights, while employees of The Original Granny's in Wheeling examined vaccination cards before seating customers.

But Big Ange's Eatery in Arlington Heights, while filled with signs explaining the mandate and the expectation of vaccination, wasn't requiring staff to see each customer's proof.

"It's as much the customer's responsibility as mine. That's how I see it," owner Angie Fridono said. "Don't even make me ask. You know what's required. I'm not going to put my employees in that predicament."

Fridono said some of her employees were sworn at in the past just for enforcing mask mandates. And some customers in recent days have suggested they don't want to be asked for their papers, she said.

Manager Michael Meyers said all customers on Tuesday appeared to be comfortable with its level of compliance.

Fat Rosie's Taco & Tequila Bar in Schaumburg also is posting signs at its entrance and telling people who call in that the business is doing everything it can to keep customers safe. But Assistant General Manager Michael Garcia said the county's unfunded mandate exceeds its ability to fully enforce.

"Realistically speaking, it's not something we'd be able to get done," Garcia said.

He added that the business would be happy to accept a guard at the front door if the county or some other authority would be willing to pay, but at this point no agency has even provided training in spotting a fake vaccination card.

In contrast, across Meacham Road, a security guard was checking customers' vaccination records at the entrance to Woodfield Mall's Dining Pavilion.

Compliance with the checks started fairly easily for The Original Granny's, according to its father-and son owners. A majority of the Wheeling village board affirmed its intention to enforce the Cook County mandate Monday, and some police officers were coincidentally eating lunch at the restaurant Tuesday.

General Manager Peter Kastanis said dine-in customers throughout the first full day of the mandate Monday were prepared to show their proof when asked.

"It was actually kind of nice," he said. "It wasn't really as bad as we expected ... yet. (Monday) was an easygoing day for us. We hope it will remain so."

Nevertheless, takeout orders spiked about 20% from the previous Monday, which Kastanis believes was likely due to the mandate.

His father and business partner George Kastanis said that no one has yet failed to have proof of vaccination. But he said he had a cordial conversation with a few regular customers on Sunday that they would likely not be back until the mandate expires.

That's why the owners hope the requirement moves on fairly quickly. Peter Kastanis said his father always advised to avoid weighty topics like politics at the dinner table, and their aim is to make their restaurant similarly free of cares and woes for its customers.

  A sign on the door of Portillo's at 806 W. Dundee Road in Arlington Heights advises customers of the need to show proof of vaccination to dine in Tuesday. Eric Peterson/
  Michael Garcia, assistant general manager for Fat Rosie's Taco & Tequila Bar in Schaumburg, said the restaurant doesn't have the staffing to check vaccination cards but will continue to enforce the mask mandate for everyone entering. Mark Welsh/
  Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg is using security guards to check patrons' vaccination status before entering the Dining Pavilion on the upper level. Mark Welsh/
  Fat Rosie's Taco & Tequila Bar in Schaumburg is not enforcing checks of vaccination cards, according to Assistant General Manager Michael Garcia, who cites insufficient staffing for the new mandate. Mark Welsh/
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