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NYC Mayor Plans to Drop Vaccine Mandate for Indoor Dining by March 7

The move is likely as long as “we see no surprises this week,” Adams says

A wine bar in Queens with a vaccine mandate notice hanging in the front window.
NYC’s vaccine mandate for restaurants may be lifted in early March.
Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams has been eager to end the city’s ongoing vaccine mandate as soon as possible — and now, a tentative deadline has been set. The mayor announced on Sunday that he wants to end the city’s vaccine mandate for indoor activities, including dining indoors at restaurants and bars, by March 7.

“New York City’s numbers continue to go down day after day, so, as long as COVID indicators show a low level of risk and we see no surprises this week, on Monday, March 7 we will also lift Key2NYC requirements,” Adams said in a statement on Sunday. “This will give business owners the time to adapt and will allow us to ensure we are making the best public health decisions for the people of New York.”

The news followed Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement on Sunday that New York was lifting its mask mandate in schools starting on Wednesday, signaling another stage of economic recovery during the pandemic. On a national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its mask guidance last Friday, saying that people in the U.S. can stop wearing masks and practicing social distancing in areas with low COVID case counts and hospitalization rates.

Last August, former mayor Bill de Blasio implemented a vaccine mandate in NYC — one of the first major cities in the U.S. to do so — to strengthen public health safety during the pandemic and boost vaccination rates. The mandate, which applied to public indoor activities including at restaurants and bars, gyms, and movie theaters, has been largely well-received, although owners at a handful of restaurants including Brooklyn Dumpling Shop and Threes Brewing in Brooklyn have come under fire for inflammatory responses to the mandate.

If NYC lifts its vaccine mandate next Monday, restaurants can still voluntarily choose to require proof of vaccination to dine indoors. In other cities where vaccine mandates have recently been rolled back, including Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., some restaurants have elected to continue enforcing the measure as an extra safety precaution.

Restaurants may take a similar tact in NYC. “Removing proof of vaccination for indoor dining and drinking will be very welcome news to many restaurants and bars, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some businesses want to voluntarily keep it in place,” Andrew Rigie, the executive director of local restaurant trade group the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement in response to news of the potential mandate elimination.

As of February 27, the COVID-19 test positivity rate on a seven-day average in NYC was just under 2 percent, according to city data, marking a steady decline in test positivity rates since the omicron variant set off a surge in case counts in December and January. Across the city, 86.7 percent of adult residents have been fully vaccinated, according to city data.