New York City Dropping Indoor Dining Vaccine Requirement on March 7

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Patrons of New York City restaurants will no longer be required to show proof of vaccines to dine inside starting Monday, March 7, ending the policy nearly two years after the coronavirus swept across the city, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday.

Adams said the city will lift the policy for restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues on March 7 as cases of COVID-19 continue to decline in the city, with the current seven-day positive rate sitting at only 1.8 percent. 

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“This is about giving people the flexibility that’s needed to continue to allow, not only safety, but we have to get our economy back on track,” Adams said during a press conference in Times Square. “It’s time to open our city and get the economy back operating.”

Bars and restaurant owners can still decide to keep vaccine requirements and mask mandates in place for patrons and Adams said they legally have the right to refuse service to people who haven’t received a dose of vaccine.

“New York City’s restaurant and nightlife industry has been devastated by COVID-19, and over the past two years these small businesses have endured ever-changing pandemic mandates that have posed significant challenges to their operations, yet they’ve fought hard to persevere and to feed and serve our city during this time of crisis,” Andrew Rigie, head of trade group the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with Mayor Eric Adams, public health officials and community leaders to lift the city’s temporary proof of vaccination mandate for indoor dining, as an important step in our resilient city’s revival.”

Aside from lifting the indoor dining vaccine requirement, Adams also said kindergarten through 12th-grade public school students would no longer be required to wear masks indoors starting next Monday.

The indoor dining vaccine requirement — dubbed “Key to NYC” — was started in August 2021 by former Mayor Bill de Blasio after restaurant owners struggled through months of constant change: from being delivery to takeout-only, to being allowed to offer outdoor dining then shifting capacity restrictions for indoor dining.

Most business owners embraced the rule — with some even having their own vaccination requirement before it was city law — but it did face several legal challenges from properties and politicians to end it.

Adams said earlier this week that he would lift the vaccine mandate as early as March 7, sparking optimism in the real estate industry that it will help bring about the long-awaited return to the office.

The mayor said that his office would continue to monitor COVID-19 infection rates and would again implement the vaccine mandate and indoor mask mandate for schools if the numbers climb again.

“We will make the proper public health decision to keep our city safe, [and] we will pivot if we see a reason to change any policies,” Adams said. “If we see a rise in cases and hospitalizations, we’re going to [bring it] back.”

Nicholas Rizzi can be reached at nrizzi@commercialobserver.com.