The 2022 NYC Vaccine Mandates For Indoor Dining & Nightlife

Note: On March 7th, 2022, New York City’s vaccine mandates ended. Read more in my latest article, ” NYC Vaccine Mandates Ended: Heres How Nightlife Will Change.”

NYC remains the undisputed leader when it comes to cracking down on unvaccinated patrons. And, as usual, the hospitality industry is at the center of the crosshairs.

On December 6th, 2021, Governor De Blasio announced the latest “Key To NYC” vaccine mandates. In short, these guidelines apply to indoor dining, activities, and entertainment, and expand the current vaccination requirements to younger age groups and the “undervaccinated.”

“Undervaccinated” is when an individual, or population, does not meet the established vaccination standards or minimum requirements to be considered “fully vaccinated.”

If you want to enjoy nightlife and entertainment in NYC, then you should be familiar with these rules, and know how they impact the hospitality industry.

So, in this article, I will list everything you need to know about “The 2022 NYC Vaccine Mandates For Indoor Dining And Nightlife,” along with valuable resources, pertinent information, the latest nightlife trends, and data from trusted sources.

I will also offer travel tips and expert insights that will help locals and tourists have the best experiences possible when going out to eat at restaurants, party at clubs, or enjoy popular indoor attractions in NYC.

A Brief Recap: What Is The Key To NYC Program?

For the uninitiated locals or tourists visiting New York City who aren’t familiar with the Key To NYC Program, it outlines New York City’s vaccination requirements for public indoor dining establishments, activities, and entertainment:

  • Restaurants and eateries (e.g. coffee shops, cafés, grocery stores)
  • Bars and clubs (E.g. dinner parties, rooftop bars, lounges)
  • Indoor attractions and landmarks (e.g. Top of The Rock Observation Deck, The Empire State Building)
  • Museums (e.g. MOMA, Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art)
  • Concert Venues and Arenas (e.g. Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, Broadway shows)
  • Indoor fitness and recreation (e.g. dance studios, gyms, and indoor play centers)

If you want to attend or work at any of these indoor businesses, acceptable proof of vaccination will be required:

  • CDC Vaccination Card
  • Vaccination record (a photocopy or digital photo)
  • An uploaded image of the vaccinaation record on an approved mobile application (e.g. NYC COVID Safe App, Clear Health Pass, Excelsior Pass)

These mandates also designate the required vaccination statuses, either partially or fully vaccinated:

According to the CDC, in general, people must meet the following criteria to be considered “fully vaccinated” COVID-19: ±

  • It has been 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • It has been 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

In a nutshell, under the Key To NYC guidelines, vaccination is required for just about everything that is worth seeing or doing indoors in NYC.

People Age 12 and Over Must Be Fully Vaccinated

As of December 6th, 2021, the current NYC vaccine mandates require people ages 12 and over to present proof that they are “fully vaccinated,” by having received 2 doses of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, or one dose of Johnson’s & Johnson’s vaccine to attend any public indoor dining establishments or activities.

As of December 28th, 2021, New York State Covid-19 data shows that 83.8% of the 18 and over population has received a complete vaccine series:

According to current CDC data (as of December 29th, 2021), 71.1% of the U.S. population ages 12 and over is fully vaccinated.

New York State vaccination data specifically for the target demographic group of children under 18 years of age is not yet available.

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Children Age 5-11 Must Be Vaccinated Starting December 14th

Starting on December 14th, 2022, NYC vaccine mandates require children between the ages of 5-11 to present proof that they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend any public indoor dining establishments or activities.

This marks the first time when vaccine mandates for indoor dining and activities are expanded to children. This announcement comes shortly after the FDA’s emergency authorization (on October 29th, 2021) and CDC’s subsequent endorsement (on November 2, 2021) of Pfizer’s vaccine for use in children ages 5-11 to protect against Covid-19.

New York State vaccination data specifically for the target demographic group of children between 5 -11 years of age is not yet available.

How old do you have to be to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Adults and children ages 5 and over are approved by the CDC and FDA to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently, Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized for children ages 5 and over. While Moderna and J&J vaccines are only approved for adults age 18 and over.

Below, is a chart from the CDC which details the vaccines that are approved for children and teens, along with corresponding age ranges:

If you have safety concerns about vaccinating your children, I recommend for you to read Yale Medicine’s article on this topic.

Children Age 5-11 Must Be Fully Vaccinated Starting January 29th

Starting on January 29th, 2022, vaccine mandates require children between the ages of 5-11 to present proof that they are fully vaccinated, and have received a complete series of COVID-19 vaccines, to attend any indoor dining establishments or indoor activities.

New York State vaccination data specifically for the target demographic group of children between 5 -11 years of age is not yet available.

Waiting Periods Between Vaccinations

To be compliant with this vaccine mandate for children, will require some timing and planning. Currently, each vaccine that requires two doses has a waiting period between the first and second shot.

How far apart are COVID-19 vaccine doses given?

So, you may have to put a hold on indoor activities for a month or so, such as after-school programs, as you arrange your children’s vaccination schedule.

The Impact on NYC Nightlife From Vaccine Mandates

Since the pandemic began, the nightlife industry has faced severe challenges:

  • In 2020, the market size for the bar and nightclub sector was down by an estimated 31%, from approximately $29 Billion to $20 billion, than the prior year (statista).
  • Spending from tourism in 2020 was reportedly down by 73% year over year (NY State Comptroller).
  • In 2021, 75% of restaurant owners surveyed report that hiring and retaining employees is their biggest challenge (National Restaurant Association).

While the restaurant and nightlife industries contend with these market and staffing challenges, vaccine mandates only serve to slow their recovery.

When considering local demand, in NYC, you must be age 21 and over to drink alcohol and attend bars or nightclubs that serve liquor. So, with 83.8% of the 18 and over age demographic in NYC already fully vaccinated, we may not see a significant decline in the already diminished traffic to clubs, bars, and restaurants for this local target audience – but growth will remain the problem.

On the other hand, vaccine mandates are likely to cause a further decline in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated domestic and international tourists who are deterred from visiting NYC due to these mounting restrictions.

Did the Supreme Court Block Vaccine Mandates for NYC businesses?

No, the Supreme Court did not block vaccine mandates for NYC. On January 13th, 2022, the Supreme Court blocked a proposed federal OSHA vaccine mandate, known as the “vaccine-or-test” rule for employers with over 100 employees. This did not apply to the state and city level vaccine mandates in New York.

Thus, New York City’s private-sector rules and workplace vaccination requirements remain in effect. Employees who perform in-person services or interact with the public are still required to be vaccinated. And local businesses must continue to require proof of vaccination from customers.

Bad Timing For NYC Nightlife

Since these new vaccine mandates coincide with a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in NYC, the combination may still spell gloom and doom for nightlife. And the timing couldn’t be worst given the multitude of planned New Year’s Eve 2021 parties, holiday events, and celebratory programs.

No matter how you pitch it, travelling to or partying in NYC when COVID-19 cases are at a peak generally wouldn’t sound enticing to anyone. So, nightlife business should anticipate cancelations and slow business for the holiday season.

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Signs Of A Slowdown For Nightlife In NYC

The timing of these new vaccinate mandates aren’t ideal for the nightlife or avid partygoers. New Year’s Eve is arguably the most popular and profitable holiday of the year for many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Which is typically followed by slow business for the next couple of cold winter months.

While seasonality plays a part in the nightlife slowdown, Search trends for nightlife topics have already tapered. And over the course of this month, I’ve noticed other uncommon trends that may indicate lower demand for NYE parties:

  • Deep discounts on 5-hour premium open bars for under $100 during the week of NYE
  • NYE tickets on discount ticket websites that take huge commissions from already low prices
  • One of the top NYE party organizers significantly increasing paid advertisements for tickets that normally sell themselves

Typically the demand for NYE tickets outweighs the supply, which makes these marketing and pricing tactics less common. After working in the nightlife for over a decade, I have rarely seen availability or ticket prices as low just days before New Year’s Eve:

Real examples of deep discounts on NYE 2021 tickets -Always The VIP
Real examples of deep discounts on NYE 2021 tickets

$50 for a 5-hour premium open bar, the night before NYE, is a deep discount when compared to normal market prices. Just consider the high prices for drinks at most bars in NYC, where one cocktail with bottom-shelf liquor costs $15 – it’s almost like the bar is giving drinks away!

Given these trends, I foresee muted NYE revenues, followed by an atypically slow first quarter for the nightlife industry.

The Burden On Struggling Restaurants and Nightlife Businesses

In May 2021, data from a survey of 1,300 small business owners nationwide showed that,

56% of small businesses believe they won’t survive the year without financial support.

Source: Small Business Majority

So, if my prediction of a poor turnout for the end of year holiday season comes true, you can expect the nightlife sector to feel significant residual financial pain.

This brings to mind a topic that hasn’t been in media headlines or business guidance following vaccine mandates: The impact of vaccine requirements on the market and demand. It is measurable and important for the many businesses that face compounding economic, staffing, and infrastructure challenges.

I have an article discussing the impact of vaccines on the market in the works, so stay tuned.

Vaccine Mandates For Visitors

As of November 8th, 2021, it is mandatory to get a COVID-19 vaccine before entering the U.S. with limited exceptions.

As per the latest travel restriction, non-U.S. citizens/immigrants traveling to the U.S.A. are required to be fully vaccinated and present a negative COVID-19 test within the last 24 hours of their flight’s scheduled departure date:

Vaccination and Testing Requirements For Air Travelers To The USA December 2021 The 2022 NYC Vaccine Mandates For Indoor Dining And Nightlife Always The VIP
Vaccination and Testing Requirements For Air Travelers To The USA (Source: Travel State Gov)
New Testing Requirements For Air Travelers To The USA December 2021 The 2022 NYC Vaccine Mandates For Indoor Dining And Nightlife Always The VIP
New Testing Requirements For Air Travelers To The USA December 2021 Source: US Department of State

The New York Vaccine Mandate For Visitors

It doesn’t matter if you are traveling from the UK to New York, or from California to New York – Whether you are an international or domestic traveler, NYC vaccination requirements apply to you.

While visiting NYC, you must present proof that you are fully vaccinated to be permitted to enjoy indoor dining, activities, and tourist attractions. It will be requested if you plan to do any sightseeing tours that include popular new attractions like the One World Observatory, the Edge Observation, and the famed Broadway shows in NYC – so be prepared.

Do you traveler to NYC have to quarantine?

Although it is advised if you are symptomatic or recently exposed, quarantine for travelers to NYC is not required, monitored, or enforced.

As of June 25, 2021, there are no travel restrictions that require you to quarantine when visiting New York City. So, travelers do not have to submit any health documents, such as a negative PCR test, before or upon arrival in NYC. And they are not required to isolate themselves and avoid contact with other people.

But, of course, if you are symptomatic, you should elect to get tested and self-quarantine. It’s simply the right and altruistic thing to do.

Free Vaccinations For Tourists in NYC

Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is offered for free to all individuals in the U.S.A., regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

So, if needed, I highly recommend the NYC Vaccine finder to help you locate a nearby vaccination center – there are a ton of them in NYC.

This, “Vaccine tourism,” is when travelers visit a different country or state to receive vaccinations due to vaccine shortages in their home area. It has become a common occurrence during the global pandemic, with international travelers visiting the U.S.A. to access its abundant supply of vaccines.

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If you question the ethics of visiting a country just for a vaccination, keep in mind that Covid-19 is a worldwide problem. Every precautionary measure could save a life, protect others, improve recovery time, and/or limit further transmission to other people. Nationalism won’t stop this pandemic, sharing resources will.

And in case you are wondering if it was a hassle for a traveler to get vaccinated in NYC, I helped a family member who came from Japan with a similar task. It seems that all you will need to get vaccinated is your passport and the address where you are staying in the U.S.A. Besides that, a great amount of patience for long waits in lines.

Is it safe to travel to New York right now?

Generally, it is safe for travelers to visit NYC. However, during the pandemic, it is best to check the latest trends of COVID-19 cases before planning to travel to NYC.

Given the recent record-breaking levels of Covid-19 cases in December 2021, this is not the safest time to travel to NYC.

According to recent data from NYC.gov, in December 2021 NYC has seen the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases since February 2020, before the pandemic was declared on March 11th, 2020 (World Health Organization Timeline).

Long term trends of Covid 19 cases in NYC from February 2020 to December 2021 The 2022 NYC Vaccine Mandates For Indoor Dining And Nightlife Always The VIP
Long term trends of COVID-19 cases in NYC from February 2020 to December 2021 (Source: NYC.gov)

Additionally, as I mentioned earlier in this article, this will very likely contribute to a decrease in local business, tourism, and activity for the restaurant and nightlife sectors.

But with less activity, comes smaller crowds and shorter wait times at normally busy tourist attractions and nightlife businesses. Which could make this an ideal time to visit NYC. If you avoid large crowds, are vaccinated, wear a mask, and practice social distancing, then you are taking every possible precaution.

The decision comes down to what you are coming to NYC for – Wild party nights or quiet sightseeing. Use your best judgment.

Considerations For Family Dining and Indoor Activities

You can expect the latest vaccination requirements for children to put a considerable damper on business to family-friendly destinations. This includes all the popular kid-friendly restaurants where you might go for a family dinner, and perhaps sneak in a cocktail or two:

  • Benihana
  • American Girl Café
  • Jekyll and Hyde restaurant
  • Planet Hollywood
  • and, my personal favorite, Dave And Buster’s

And let’s not forget the museums, activity centers, and after-school programs (a.k.a. “High-Risk Extracurricular Activities”) where you would normally let your little ones socialize and run amuck:

  • Children’s Museum of Manhattan
  • Children’s Museum of the Arts
  • Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex

Possible Identification Requirements For Children

One important detail that you may have to deal with, but also hasn’t been brought up, is verification. Typically, when presenting proof of vaccination to indoor businesses, hosts would screen guests at the entrance by verifying a match between your vaccination card with your identification card.

Otherwise, you could show anyone’s vaccine card, which defeats the entire purpose of the screening process.

So, does your 5-11 year-old have a valid form of identification yet?

International tourists should be prepared with their child’s passport. However, unless businesses forgo this ID check for children, locals may have to take the dreaded trip to the DMV to get their child a non-driver’s ID card (any age) or to get an “IDNYC” (New York City’s ID valid for children age 10 and over).

Will the city expedite ID’s to serve this purpose? We’ll have to wait and see.

To be on the safe side, I recommend for you to get an ID for your children immediately before the masses realize this and the wait times become astronomical.

These are all the most important vaccination mandates impacting indoor dining, activities, nightlife that you should be aware of going into 2022. These facts, resources, and tips should help you plan appropriately and enjoy everything NYC has to offer.

I firmly believe that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere soon and that it may be around forever. So, there will likely be many more updates on the horizon. Like requirements for regular monthly boosters!

But don’t worry, I’ll be here to keep you posted and plugged into the latest trends that will affect your nights out in NYC!

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About Author
C. "Nez" Byrd

An expert club promoter, innovative marketing executive, and entrepreneur from NYC. The founder of Always The VIP LLC, a top nightlife trend website, and creative mind leading growth marketing strategies for SaaS, B2B, and B2C companies. He is a sought after blogger, having written authoritative articles on email marketing, SEO Due Diligence, and the nightlife industry who finds deep joy in creating memorable experiences to connect people of all colors together.

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