Businesses see challenges, but some good, in Cook County vaccination requirement

While several businesses affected by Cook County's newly announced proof-of-vaccination requirement say they intend to comply, the jury is still out on the opinions of their customers.

LeyAnne Gonzales, operations manager of XSport Fitness in Schaumburg, began reaching out Thursday to members by email and in person to inform them of the rules Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle announced will take effect Jan. 3.

During the first few hours of that effort, she did not hear a positive response. Some clients even claimed it would be illegal for the business to ask for that information, Gonzales added.

But Gonzales thought other members might hold a different opinion.

"I think if you look at it from the other side, some people might feel more comfortable," she said.

Ivan Arriola, a co-owner of Rise n Dine Pancake Cafe in Wheeling, said he immediately recognized a positive side of the imminent regulations.

"I think this is something that's going to keep our staff and their families safe," Arriola said. "We need them to be healthy and active. If this is going to help not shut down indoor dining, we're happy to do it."

In the case of his business, Arriola thought it wouldn't be overly difficult for the person who greets and seats customers to also check their proof of vaccination.

He and his business partners, all of whom are former managers of Egg Harbor Cafe locations, bought the breakfast and lunch restaurant at 102 S. Milwaukee Ave. less than a year before the start of the pandemic.

Arriola described the experience of running a restaurant the past two years as a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but he is proud that there has not been a single positive case of COVID-19 among the staff.

Because customers at Garibaldi's Italian Eatery locations in Hoffman Estates and Arlington Heights order at counters inside, enforcement of the new rules won't be quite as simple, Vice President Steve Carlson said. But both restaurants intend to find a way to do it.

"Our position is that whatever Cook County and the state mandate, we're going to follow," Carlson said. "We're concerned about the safety and health of our staff and customers."

The management at Garibaldi's is going to spend the coming days figuring out a way to enforce the new requirement quickly and correctly, he added. But that doesn't mean it will be easy.

"It's going to be a challenge, but if it helps everyone else we're going to participate," Carlson said. "Because we are going to participate, it's going to be a chore and a chore to do it effectively."

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