Restaurant workers receive COVID-19 injections ahead of expected surge in customer numbers


Leigh Arn understands why the rules about wearing a mask are finally changing, but she wishes they hadn’t happened so quickly.

“It would be nice if we could wait a little longer until all the staff are vaccinated,” said Arn, 24, a waiter at Utopian Tailgate in the Old Town.

Nonetheless, she took the opportunity to get the vaccine on Tuesday when her employers, working with Humboldt Park Health, set up a mobile vaccination clinic outside of West Town Bakery, 1916 W. Chicago Ave.

“I’m excited,” Arn said. “It was difficult to get an appointment. So it’s good that they’ve put this in place for us.

Scott Weiner, co-founder of the Fifty / 50 Restaurant Group, which includes Utopian Tailgate and West Town Bakery, said he organized the event primarily to help the city’s restaurant workers, although the clinic is open to everyone. world. About 200 people registered for Tuesday’s event.

“Many restaurant workers are Hispanic and Latin American, they don’t come to work with their laptops on their shoulders, and they are also standing during their shifts. So they don’t really have the opportunity to sit in front of their computer and look for ‘Where can I get the vaccine’, ”he said.

Weiner demands that all of its approximately 500 employees be fully immunized by July 15; about 75% already are, he said.

“The most important thing I have heard during the pandemic is that service workers don’t necessarily feel safe because they have to be with clients. They don’t have the luxury of working from home or isolating themselves 6 feet from their employees, ”Weiner said.

No one resigned and employees did not complain about the tenure, he said. Yet when the local media picked up the story, Weinert received slightly disturbing emails.

“I started getting everything from death threats to Russian hackers chasing us. It was pretty wild.

Although customers don’t have to do it now, all of its employees will be required to wear masks “until I’m 100% sure everyone is vaccinated,” Weiner said.

Weiner said he intends to rely on the “honor system” when it comes to customers entering his restaurants without a mask.

Arn said it would be next to impossible to do it any other way.

“We’re crowded all the time now. People are so excited to go away, how are you going to stop each person and say, “Are you vaccinated? Are you vaccinated? “

She added, “It starts the interaction with abrasiveness. You want people to be welcome in your establishment and to be there to have a good experience.

Several restaurateurs had reasons somewhat foreign to their work for wanting to be vaccinated.

“I’m sitting on so many flight credits right now because of 2020,” said Jalil Shomari, 25, who works at Roots Handmade Pizza in the South Loop, and plans trips to Japan and the Philippines.

Weinert said the challenge he faced was to hire more employees. With the increase in catering demand, he wants to accommodate 250 additional people.

“It’s not that we’re having trouble finding employees,” he said. “We have a lot of applicants, but everyone is hiring right now. So if you’re not very quick to set up an interview, chances are they’ll be interviewed elsewhere. “


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