Philadelphia Announces a COVID Vaccine Mandate for Indoor Dining & More

This week, Philadelphia city officials announced a new COVID vaccine mandate. Starting on January 3rd, 2022, you will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID in order to enter any establishment that serves food and drinks. Philadelphia is the newest large city to impose such a mandate, following in the footsteps of other cities like San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and more. 

covid vaccine card

This mandate also applies to employees at these establishments. Read on to learn more about how the Philadelphia vaccine mandate will affect restaurants, employees, and patrons. 

What Businesses are Affected by the Philly COVID Vaccine Mandate? 

Any establishment that serves food or drink to be consumed on the premises will now require proof of vaccination for everyone entering. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. 

Starting Janaury 3rd, you will need proof of full COVID vaccination to enter: 

  • Indoor restaurants 
  • Bars
  • Cafes
  • Sports venues that serve food and drink (including the Wells Fargo Center) 
  • Movie theatres
  • Bowling alleys
  • Catering halls
  • Casinos 
  • Food court seating areas

Basically any setting where you can remove your mask indoors to eat or drink in Philadelphia will require proof of vaccination. The few exceptions to this mandate include K-12 and early childcare settings, congregate care facilities, special population providers like shelters and nursing homes, grocery stores, and convenience stores or establishments that sell food for mostly offsite use. 

The Philadelphia International Airport is also an exception, although you will need proof of vaccination to sit at seated restaurants within the airport. 

Sporting events will be affected by this mandate – as noted above, the Wells Fargo Center is included in the list of businesses affected, so you must be vaccinated to go to a Flyers or Sixers game.

As for semi-outdoor venues like Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park, the rules are a bit different. Since they are mostly outside, you won’t need to be vaccinated to go to a game. Certain parts of those stadiums will require proof of vaccination, however, like the indoor seated restaurants. 

The Timeline for The Philly Vaccine Mandate

philadelphia skyline at sunset

This new mandate was announced on December 13th, 2021, and it goes into effect on January 3rd, 2022. That gives residents 5 weeks to get fully vaccinated if they are not already. 

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Employees at these establishments must have at least one dose of the vaccine by January 3rd, and must complete their vaccine series by February 3rd. The same rule applies to children between ages 5 years 3 months and 11.

For the first two weeks, from January 3rd to January 17th, establishments may choose to allow patrons with a negative COVID test in the last 24 hours to enter if they are not fully vaccinated. Restaurants and other businesses are not required to do so, however, and many Philadelphia restaurants have already been requiring proof of vaccination for entry. 

After January 17th, 2022, a negative COVID test will no longer be allowed as a means to enter restaurants and other establishments serving food. 

As with other vaccine mandates, people with proof of valid religious or medical exemptions are exempt from this mandate, as are children under 5 years and 3 months old. 

What does fully vaccinated mean? 

Philly’s mandate requires that patrons be “fully vaccinated” against COVID 19, which means they must have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

A negative COVID test will only be acceptable for the first two weeks of the mandate, after which vaccination is the only means to gain entry. 

Can I show a photo of my vaccine card? 

Yes, in most cases a photo of your vaccination card will suffice. Many people choose to use a photo rather than carry the physical vaccination card as proof. Be sure to check with specific establishments before assuming that a photo will work, however. 

How will this mandate affect Philadelphia restaurants? 

The purpose behind Philadelphia requiring proof of vaccination is to make indoor dining safer as COVID cases begin to spike again this winter. Most restaurant owners welcome the mandate, which will keep their businesses and employees safer from COVID. 

Any establishment that fail to comply with this mandate could face fines of up to $2000 per day. 

The feedback from Philadelphia restaurant owners has been mixed, but mostly positive. The Philadelphia Inquirer reached out to some restaurant owners for comment, and while some are concerned about slowing business, most are pleased with the mandate for improving safety.

Philadelphia has joined a growing list of cities requiring vaccination for indoor activities. This effort to make indoor dining safer aims to lower COVID transmission as numbers of infection go up this winter.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, learn where you can get vaccinated in Philadelphia!

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What do you think about the Philly vaccine mandate? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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