MILWAUKEE — Odd Duck, a restaurant located on Kinnickinnic Avenue in the Bay View neighborhood, is the first restaurant in Milwaukee to require customers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter.
Owners posted to social media over the weekend that if you are 18 years or older, you must show proof of vaccination, either in the form of a physical vaccination card, a photo of it, or your online state vaccine record.
Owners define fully vaccinated as having two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Their post did not mention the booster shot.
If you are a regular of the restaurant, all you have to do is show proof once because you are listed in their reservation list, they said.
"Our staff has already been required to be fully vaccinated to protect you, we are simply asking for the same in return during this surge," they write.
The vaccination requirement is part of several new COVID-19 policies they are rolling out. The others include reservations being required to sit at their bar, and masks required anytime you are not seated and actively dining.
They said their staff are all fully vaccinated and are wearing masks. Complimentary masks will be available for those who don't have one.
They also ask customers to bring their photo ID to match with the proof of vaccination.
"We want to be able to take care of you as safely as possible, and this is the general consensus of how that can work for now. Be safe out there!" Odd Duck owners write.
Odd Duck is believed to be the first restaurant in Milwaukee to require COVID-19 vaccinations to enter, amid a spike in cases and hospitalizations in the area driven by the new Omicron variant.
Read their post below:
Mark Kass, Editor-in-Chief of the Milwaukee Business Journal, said he wouldn't be surprised if more Milwaukee restaurants do the same.
"This is something that is kind of a trend right now. I don't think you'll see a lot, I think you'll see the ones that have struggled to stay open," Kass said.
Kass mentioned other businesses in Milwaukee that have also implemented vaccine requirements like the Pabst and Riverside theaters and Bounce Milwaukee.
Uncle Wolfie's Breakfast Tavern in Milwaukee also implemented a vaccine requirement on Monday. That will go in effect on Friday.
But Kass doesn't think the policy will become widespread in Milwaukee. Kristine Hillmer, President of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, agrees.
"I don't think a vaccine mandate is gonna be where a lot of folks are going to be putting their efforts," Hillmer said.
But for some diners, a vaccine requirement may make them feel more confident going out.
"I think you'll see this as an option for people," Kass said. "There are people out there who only want to eat at a restaurant that has this in place."
On the flip side, the move does come with the risk of losing some customers as well.
"I think you saw that at Summerfest last fall, you saw people who didn't go to Summerfest because of this... It's a risky venture, yet I think the owners are trying to make a decision on what's best for their restaurants," Kass said.
As of January 3rd in Chicago, proof of vaccination is now required for indoor public spaces like restaurants. However, both Kass and Hillmer don't foresee that happening in Milwaukee.
Either way, Hillmer stressed the importance on continuing to support local businesses.
"There's still a lot of great seats in a lot of restaurants that we're hoping you're going to support. And if you don't feel comfortable going into the restaurant, you can certainly do carryout or you can do delivery," Hillmer said.