NYC Vaccine Mandates Ended: How Nightlife Will Change Now

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wild ride for the nightlife in NYC.

But finally, after facing so many challenges, from strict indoor dining guidelines to a 73% decrease in visitor spending, and a loss of over 89,000 jobs in 2020 alone (NY State Comptroller), the Hospitality industry finally catches a break.

As the trend of COVID-19 cases has slowed, after the last spike in December 2021, plans are now in effect to end the executive orders that were enacted in response to the pandemic; On March 4th, 2022, NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced the end of New York City’s “Key To NYC” program.

Since the Key To NYC legislation was unique, and the first of its kind in the nation, its end may be straightforward for NYC locals who have had to live with it. But, it may not be clear-cut for visitors or those who limited their exposure to the nightlife. And especially not for international travelers planning to visit NYC.

So, in this article, I will explain all the details about what the end of the Key To NYC program means for local businesses, along with the official announcements and supporting data from trusted sources.

And as a nightlife professional, who runs promotions for top clubs in NYC, I will also offer expert insights into the changes you can expect in the nightlife, and address important questions that party-goers and visitors often have. All to help ensure that you can enjoy the amazing nightlife and entertainment that this great city is famous for, with no surprises.

NYC Officially Ends the Key To NYC Program

As of Monday, March 7th, 2022, the Key To NYC program has been suspended. This effectively means that proof of vaccination and all mandatory regulations for indoor dining and activities have been lifted in NYC. So, indoor dining guidelines such as vaccine passports, social distancing, mask policies, curfews, and indoor/outdoor capacity limits are no longer enforced by the government in NYC.

Therefore, businesses such as bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, and event venues may now allow customers to enter according to their normal operating policies.

The official statement to lift New York City’s remaining indoor dining guidelines was announced publicly in Times Square on March 4th, 2022, by Mayor Eric Adams. Which you can reference in the following video:

Why NYC Vaccine Mandates in NYC Have Been Lifted

New York City’s vaccine mandates were lifted due to the recent low COVID-19 positivity rate, a steep decline in new cases, and high vaccination rates. And, according to the administration under NYC Mayor Adams, our future health and safety guidelines will continue to be dictated by the data:

COVID 19 Case Data as of March 4 2022 Source NYC GOV Vaccine Mandates Ended How NYC Nightlife Will Change Always The VIP
COVID-19 Case Data as of March 4, 2022, Source NYC GOV

Can Businesses Still Require Proof Of Vaccination?

Despite New York City lifting vaccination mandates, businesses are allowed to require proof of vaccination, and refuse entry to customers who do not wish to comply, at their discretion.

“Restaurants…still can use their discretion if they desire…but the overall restriction is being removed.”

NYC Mayor Eric Adams

Therefore, it is important to note that if you come across a business that still asks for proof of vaccination, it is within their legal rights.

Since some businesses may elect to require proof of vaccination for entry, it is best to be prepared when visiting NYC:

  • Keep a picture of your vaccination proof in your phone or a copy on hand.
  • Call ahead to confirm current health policies for businesses where you have reservations or tickets for.
  • Check the official business websites for the latest COVID-19 policies.

And keep in mind that business directories like Yelp and Google are not always kept up to date.

Simply put, don’t assume that every business in NYC will immediately drop every health and safety measure. It will likely take time to change, and some businesses may decide to continue with some or all of the indoor guidelines if they determine it is beneficial for their employees and/or patrons’ health and safety.

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Will Bars or Clubs Require Proof of Vaccination Now?

A common question among partygoers is, “Will any bars and clubs still require proof of vaccination now?” The simplest answer is that businesses will do what the majority of customers prefer and is best for the business. When it comes to nightlife venues that rely on a high volume of customers, like clubs and bars, then you can bet they won’t require it.

Generally, if removing all proof of vaccination requirements will attract more customers, then most businesses will.

After surveying select bar and club owners in Manhattan regarding their next steps after the Key To NYC program ended, each had a neutral stance regarding maintaining vaccination policies. One owner explained it best, stating that they are waiting to “get a better feel for the overall sentiment” from the public.

Going by the facts, nightlife businesses and the hospitality industry continue to be in dire financial straits as they recover from the negative effects on demand from the pandemic:

NYC Office of Nightlife Survey on The Immediate Impact of Covid on the NYC nightlife industry Vaccine Mandates Ended How NYC Nightlife Will Change Always The VIP
NYC Office of nightlife Survey on The Immediate Impact of Covid on the NYC nightlife industry

So, ultimately, nightlife and entertainment businesses will only thrive if they open their doors to as many customers as possible – with no strings or vaccination cards attached.

Will Clubs Or Bars Still Require Masks?

You will not have to worry about clubs or bars requiring masks in NYC. Most nightlife businesses, if not all, stopped requiring masks indoors since those safety regulations for indoor dining were lifted on June 15, 2021. I have yet to work with or come across a single club since 2021 that required masks.

However, similar to the vaccine mandates, although indoor dining guidelines are not required by the government, businesses are legally allowed to continue any health and safety guidelines that they see fit – this includes mask requirements.

So, in NYC, you may still find mask guidelines enforced at businesses that offer professional services and entertainment venues where people must sit or stand in close proximity for extended periods of time. This includes movie theaters, event spaces, and concert halls, like Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center.

For instance, Lincoln Center’s most recent health and safety protocols on March 8, 2022, list that they still require proof of vaccination and masks, even though they are not required by the government.

Lincoln Center Vaccination and Mask Requirements March 8 2022 Vaccine Mandates Ended How NYC Nightlife Will Change Always The VIP
Lincoln Center Vaccination and Mask Requirements March 8 2022

On the other hand, Madison Square Garden has an open policy where health and safety guidelines will vary for each event. This indicates that these guidelines may be determined by individual event organizers.

Madison Square Garden vaccination Requirements March 8 2022 Vaccine Mandates Ended How NYC Nightlife Will Change Always The VIP
Madison Square Garden vaccination Requirements March 8 2022

Do Employees At Bars and Clubs In NYC Still Have to Be vaccinated?

If, for any reason, you are worried that about the vaccination status of employees at businesses in NYC, don’t be. Although vaccine mandates in NYC were lifted for customers and visitors, the workplace vaccine requirements remain in place – for now.

The standing workplace vaccine requirements state that businesses may not allow unvaccinated employees into the workplace. This means that all on-site employees at any businesses in NYC, such as waiters, cooks, and managers at clubs, bars, theaters, and restaurants in NYC must be fully vaccinated.

NYC Workplace Vaccination Requirements For Businesses 2022 Always The VIP
NYC Workplace Vaccination Requirements For Businesses 2022 Always The VIP

Continue To Protect Yourself

While this may come as a relief to some, it is important to note “breakthrough infections” are still possible. Breakthrough infections occur when vaccinated individuals contract COVID-19. So, you can still contract and spread COVID-19 even if you are vaccinated.

As of February 27, 2022, New York State Data has confirmed 1,184,448 breakthrough cases, which equates to 8.89% of the NY population of fully-vaccinated people 12-years or older.

So, as we have all learned from our difficult times during this pandemic, do what you feel is best to protect your health of those that you love. After visiting numerous bars and clubs throughout the pandemic, the one thing that I can confidently tell you is that no person or place in NYC will make you feel uncomfortable about wearing a mask inside or choosing to only visit businesses where vaccination is still required to attend.

RELATED:   The 10 PM Curfew For Bars And Private Gathering Limits During The NYC Shutdown

This is all the most pressing information that locals, visitors, and tourists should know about the latest pandemic-related decisions, and how these changes will impact the nightlife in NYC.

And if you follow the recommendations that were made here, you are sure to have some great nights out in the city that never sleeps!

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About Author
C. "Nez" Byrd

An expert club promoter, growth marketing executive, and entrepreneur from NYC. He is the founder of Always The VIP LLC, creator of a popular nightlife trend website, and a marketing leader for successful enterprise businesses. He is an author of various authoritative articles on marketing strategy and the nightlife industry who finds deep joy in creating memorable experiences for people of all colors.

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