City of Philadelphia Announces Food Establishment Vaccine Mandate

In response to rising COVID-19 case rates, on December 13, 2021, the Philadelphia Department of Health announced a vaccine mandate for patrons and staff of all establishments that sell food or drink for on-site consumption within Philadelphia city limits.  The mandate will take effect on January 3, 2022.  Vaccine mandates for food establishments and restaurants have been announced previously in multiple cities, including New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.1

Covered Establishments

The mandate applies only to establishments that sell food or drink for on-site consumption, including:

  • Indoor restaurant spaces
  • Cafes within larger spaces (e.g., museum cafes)
  • Bars
  • Sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption
  • Movie theaters
  • Other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption
  • Conventions (if food is being served)
  • Catering halls
  • Casinos (if food and drink are allowed on casino floor)
  • Food court seating areas, which should be cordoned off and have someone checking vaccine status on entry to seating area

The mandate, however, does not apply to:

  • K-12 and early childcare settings
  • Hospitals
  • Congregate care facilities
  • Special population providers that serve food, residential or healthcare facilities
  • Grocery stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Other establishments that primarily sell food and drink for offsite use
  • Philadelphia International Airport, except in traditional seated restaurant or seated bar style locations
  • Soup kitchens or sites serving vulnerable populations

The mandate also does not apply to individuals entering a covered establishment for less than 15 minutes (e.g., picking up food or using the restroom). 


From January 3, 2022 to January 17, 2022, covered establishments can admit only patrons who show either proof of completed COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of entry.  Completed vaccination means either receiving two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  After January 17, 2022, proof of negative COVID-19 test will not be sufficient, and covered establishments can admit only patrons who show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.  All staff at covered establishments must also be vaccinated and must have one dose of a vaccine by Monday January 3, 2022 and a second dose, if receiving a two-dose vaccine series, by Thursday, February 3, 2022. 

Covered Individuals

The mandate applies to all patrons, except:

  • Children under 5 years and 3 months2
  • Individuals with signed medical exemptions from a licensed practitioner
  • Individuals with religious exemptions who have attested in writing as to their sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from being vaccinated

Any patron exempt from the vaccine requirement must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours prior to entry to enter an establishment that seats 1,000 or more people.  However, children under two need not be tested. 

At this time, the Philadelphia Department of Health has only issued a press release about this new mandate.  We anticipate the Department will provide further information via an order or other guidance on its website in the coming days.   

In response to this new mandate, food establishments within the City of Philadelphia should review their vaccination policies and ensure that vaccines are required of all employees and patrons, subject to available exceptions. 

See Footnotes

1 See, e.g., Lisa M. Griffith and Devjani H. Mishra, The Key to NYC, Only Vaccinated Employees and Patrons Are Given a Free Pass, Littler ASAP (Aug. 4, 2021).

2 After January 17, 2022, children 5 years and 3 months through 11 must have one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine by January 3, 2022 and complete the vaccine series by February 3, 2022 in order to be admitted into a covered establishment. 

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.