By CBS3 Staff

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia will soon require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to dine indoors. Officials announced the decision Monday.

Starting Jan. 3, diners will have to show proof of vaccination, unless the restaurant allows a test option. Starting Jan. 17, there is no longer a test option, and full vaccination will be required in bars, restaurants, indoor sporting events, movie theaters, and other places.

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Children under 5-years-old and those with proven medical or religious exemptions are excluded from the new mandate. In addition, health officials say schools, daycares, hospitals, grocery stores, and shelters or places serving vulnerable populations will not require proof of vaccination or a negative test.

The lunch crowd at Harper’s Garden in Center City is steady with customers choosing outdoor seating areas. Mask mandates are already in place for those inside the venue, and the staff is required to be vaccinated. Now, the city has added another layer of protection — a vaccine requirement for all patrons.

“I think it’s really good,” Harper’s Garden owner Avram Hornik said.

Starting Jan. 3, the new mandate applies for any establishment that sells food and or drinks on-site, and it’s welcome news for Hornik. He says city health officials have been mulling over this decision for two weeks and they’ve been in contact with many restaurant owners about the new plan.

“We all know that the only way to kind of end the pandemic is through as many people as possible being vaccinated,” Hornik said.

“I want to recognize all the Philadelphians taking precautions every day to protect themselves and others,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.

The mayor and the city health commissioner announced the changes Monday morning.

When questioned about how restaurant workers should prepare for possible verbal or physical backlash from customers who may not want to comply, Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said, “If there’s a situation where someone is becoming belligerent, that’s an issue where they should be calling for security, calling police if they have to.”

Hornik sees the new vaccine mandate as a way to create safe spaces for families and friends inside restaurants — a setting where safety will be the priority.

“Now that we have this vaccine mandate in place, restaurants become safe zones,” he said, “It’s a place where you know you can gather with your friends and family, and everyone in that whole space is vaccinated.”

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CBS3 spotted a bouncer checking IDs and vaccination cards at Garage Fishtown Monday night. The city’s new vaccine mandate is nothing new to them.

For months, they have been requiring vaccinations in order to avoid masking up.

“To have as much fun as possible in a place like this and most bars you need to be mobile and ideally, you don’t want anyone policing you,” Garage general manager Andrew Conover said.

Now, other restaurants will need to get onboard too after the city says any establishment that offers food and drinks will require proof of vaccination.

“It takes a little bit of the pressure off of us despite the fact that it seems like most places have already moved in that direction,” Conover said.

“We can’t make people wear masks when they’re eating. We need to increase the vaccination rate,” Bettigole said.

John Barry, general manager of Set NoLibs, says this came as a surprise and they will have to train employees and even hire some more help.

“If you can keep the streeteries alive then I will swallow this pill. It won’t be good — a lot of upset people, a lot of people’s rights and stuff I don’t want to get into. I feel like we’re stepping on toes a little bit,” Barry said.

When it comes to restaurants not following the new rules, the mayors’ office says, “If they fail to comply with the mandate, these food establishments may be cited or closed, and they would need to demonstrate resolution of the offense in order to reopen. After that point, non-compliance would lead to re-inspection fees and up to $2,000 a day fines.”

The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association issued this statement regarding indoor vaccine mandates for restaurants.

It reads, in part, “THE PRLA welcomes working closely with the City of Philadelphia to ensure a safe dining experience for all and help protect the industry from further financial devastation. There are several factors to consider prior to implementing these changes, such as the impact on hotels and caterers. We hope the city will provide the industry with the utmost clarity and the resources
necessary to adhere to any new vaccine mandates.”

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CBS3’s Natasha Brown, Kerri Corrado, and Wakisha Bailey contributed to this report.