Although many restaurants across Philadelphia are requiring customers to provide proof they are vaccinated against COVID-19 for entry, most near Temple University’s Main Campus are only requiring that customers wear masks.
On-campus restaurants are not required to implement COVID-19 vaccination mandates, even though Temple has, because they are subject to city guidelines before their respective campus mandates, said James Garrow, communications director for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The city has only implemented vaccine mandates in health care and higher education settings, leaving restaurant owners to decide whether they want to require proof of vaccination for entrance to their establishments, he added.
However, restaurants that are contractually in university buildings, like those in dining halls, must follow university mandates, Garrow said.
Many on-campus restaurant owners have chosen to forego vaccine mandates because a majority of their customers are Temple students and employees, who are already subject to the university’s vaccine mandate.
“We definitely have our customers wear masks, mostly because we don’t want to inconvenience the customers too much,” said Tarik Dzemaili, the general manager of Richie’s Cafe. “And we figured on campus, the majority of our customers are vaccinated anyway.”
As of Nov. 6, 96 percent of Temple students and employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with an additional 2.5 percent exempted from the university’s vaccination requirements, according to the university’s COVID-19 cases and vaccination dashboard.
Many on-campus restaurants have also shifted to primarily offer take-out and delivery options during the pandemic, meaning there is little social interaction inside their buildings and food is primarily consumed outside.
Since Aug. 16, Maxi’s Pizza, Subs and Bar is the only on-campus restaurant requiring proof of vaccination for entry. However, like other restaurants across the city, Maxi’s has experienced issues with customers attempting to provide fake vaccination cards, like by editing photos of other people’s cards to appear as their own, said Alex Tolosa, the manager of Maxi’s.
“You can tell a card is a fake when there is white-out or when the name does not match their ID,” Tolosa said.
Because Maxi’s requires proof of vaccination, it permits customers to remove their masks indoors, which helps them socialize because they can better see other patrons’ faces, Tolosa said.
“Running a bar with nightlife, I don’t want it to be a headache for my staff or managers or security to always have to tell people to put their mask up,” Tolosa said.
Under the City of Philadelphia’s mask mandate, restaurants must have their customers wear masks indoors — except when they are eating or drinking — unless the restaurant requires proof of vaccination for entrance.
If a business fails to follow the city’s masking protocol, the PDPH has inspection officers trained in monitoring businesses and enforcing COVID-19-related laws, Garrow said.
The city did not hire additional inspection officers due to the pandemic, but provided its officers with additional training about checking social distancing requirements, mask-wearing and vaccine enforcement at restaurants, Garrow said.
“We don’t want to shut someone down over one incident,” Garrow said. “But we do want to provide input on how businesses can get better.”
Enforcement protocol has changed throughout the pandemic as more people have been vaccinated, Garrow said. The department enforced social distancing measures and seating capacity restrictions earlier in the pandemic, but now primarily focuses on the mask mandate, he added.
On Aug. 11, Philadelphia announced it would require individuals to wear masks indoors unless everyone inside provides proof of vaccination, The Temple News reported.
“The hardest part in all of this is keeping up with this changing situation,” Garrow said. “We are trying to tweak our guidance based on what we are hearing from the federal government.”
The PDPH recommends calling 311 to file a complaint against restaurants and bars that are allowing maskless interaction without showing proof of vaccination upon entry, Garrow said.
The Honeygrow and Blaze Pizza restaurants on Temple’s campus did not respond to The Temple News’ request for comment for this story. Saxby’s declined to comment.