Get the Scoop on NYC’s Vaccine Requirement for Restaurants and Other Indoor Establishments

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced the Key to NYC initiative, which, beginning August 17, 2021, will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for employees and customers of New York City indoor restaurants and dining establishments, indoor recreation and fitness facilities, indoor entertainment settings, and other indoor establishments. Notably, for purposes of the Key to NYC, proof of vaccination means proof of receipt of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and thus individuals technically do not have to be “fully vaccinated” (i.e., have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine). The City’s website created a webpage designated to the Key to NYC, inclusive of additional information regarding this new requirement and resources for businesses, such as guidance in the form of FAQs.

Businesses affected by this requirement – such as restaurants, bars, night clubs, gyms, movie and stage theatres, museums, recreational game centers, and other indoor venues – will be required to do the following (among other things):

  • Check the vaccination status of all employees and customers age 12 and older, and not permit entry to any such person who has not received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Mayor’s Executive Order provides exceptions to this requirement for individuals who are entering an establishment for a quick and limited purpose (e.g., using the restroom, placing or picking up an order or service, changing clothes in a locker room, or performing necessary repairs), provided such individuals wear a face mask at all times they are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance from other individuals inside the premises. Individuals under age 12 may enter establishments without showing proof of vaccination if they wear a face mask (except when eating or drinking) whenever they are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
  • Post the Vaccination Required Poster for Businesses in a place that is clearly visible to people before they enter the establishment.
  • Develop a written plan, which must be available for inspection upon request of a City official, setting forth the business’s protocol for implementing and enforcing the Key to NYC requirements, including how the business will check the vaccination status of staff and customers before they enter (or immediately after they enter) the premises.

Proof of vaccination may include: (i) NYC COVID Safe App; (ii) a photo or hard copy of CDC vaccination card; (iii) New York State Excelsior App; (iv) an official vaccination record; or (v) a photo or hard copy of an official vaccination record of a COVID-19 vaccine administered outside the United States. Notably, the City’s FAQs suggest that covered establishments do not need to verify that the proof of vaccination is real.

While the Key to NYC requirements take effect on August 17, 2021, the City will not begin enforcement of such requirements until September 13, 2021. A covered establishment found to be noncompliant with these requirements may be subject to a fine of $1,000, and repeated violations may result in increased fine amounts or other enforcement action.

Accordingly, restaurants and other covered indoor establishments should begin preparing for compliance with the Key to NYC, by, among other things, posting the required poster, creating the required written plan describing how the establishment will check staff and customer vaccination status, and training employees regarding enforcement of the new mandatory vaccination requirements.

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08.17.2021  |  PUBLICATION: Employment Notes  |  TOPICS: Employment

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