In the vein of great bar and restaurant promotions – happy hour, two for one, kids eat free – comes the 21st century pandemic update: get vaccinated, get a free beer.
Legendary Roscoe Village bar Village Tap announced an unlikely public health initiative Wednesday on social media: Present proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, get a $10 gift card.
The 30-year-old bar said it would hand out 1,000 gift cards – $10,000 of free beer (or food from the Village Tap kitchen if you must).
"By getting vaccinated, you are showing you care about us and you are doing your part to help all of us move one step closer to normal," the bar said on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Village Tap owner Jeff Hoffman said the idea came to him Tuesday while thinking about how to get his industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic, open as quickly and safely as possible.
"There's a lot of anger and frustration for all of us around what's happening, and happening to our businesses, but not a lot of conversation around the vaccine," Hoffman said. "I wanted to put something out there."
Too much of the conversation, he said, has been about short-term solutions for bars and restaurants – that is, reopening – rather than the long term solutions, which Hoffman said he believed to be broad vaccination.
"There's a lot of energy being put into getting us reopened without a lot of thought in my opinion on how we're going do that safely," he said.
Four people redeemed the offer on Wednesday. While $10,000 is a significant chunk of lost revenue, Hoffman said, "it's not like it'll happen all at once, so we can weather it."
With a large heated outdoor patio, Village Tap has navigated Chicago's pandemic winter – which has seen many bars and restaurants choose to shutter until spring – better than many competitors, Hoffman said, but it is still just breaking even.
On Thursday, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is "very focused" on getting "our restaurants and our bars reopened as quickly as possible."
Allowing people into spaces regulated by the city and state may help tamp down gatherings in "underground venues" where people are congregating without masks.
"If we have people, and give them an outlet for entertainment in the restaurant space in the bar space, we have much more of an opportunity in my view, to be able to regulate and control that environment," Lightfoot said.
Hoffman said he would welcome limited indoor seating – he pegged the number at 50%, provided there can be ample spacing – as the vaccine rolls out.
"From the health perspective, we are one of the most regulated industries and most operators are operating as safely as possible," he said. "As long as people are following guidelines – wearing masks, sanitizing, distancing – I think it can be done safely."
Hoffman said he has yet to be vaccinated, but "as soon as I can, I will be in line."
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