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Retail and indoor mall guidance

The following is intended as a plain-language summary of rules during the COVID-19 emergency and does not replace the need to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

See also: Restaurant and mobile food cart guidance (food courts should follow guidance for restaurants).

Vaccine mandate for indoor establishments that sell food and/or drink for consumption on site

To counter rising COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations in our area, on January 3, 2022, a vaccine mandate will go into effect for indoor establishments serving food or drink. Any establishment in Philadelphia that sells food or drink for consumption on site (food establishments) may admit only those people who have completed their vaccine series against COVID-19.  Take-out-only restaurants are not subject to the mandate.

If your establishment sells food and or drink for consumption on site, read for more detailed information on the vaccine mandate and how you are required to follow it in Guidance for Restaurants, catered events, weddings, and celebrations and Seated areas for dining in food courts, markets, and airports.

Exemptions to vaccine mandate:

  • Children under age 5 years and 3 months.
  • Individuals with documentation of a medical exemption signed by a licensed medical practitioner who attests to an in-person consultation with the individual.
  • Individuals with religious exemptions. These individuals must attest in writing that they have a sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated.

Exemptions at large venues:

  • Any patron with a vaccine exemption will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry for the entirety of this mandate to enter an establishment that seats 1,000 or more people. This requirement does not apply to children under age 5.
  • Any employee with a vaccine exemption will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test weekly.

Testing guidance for exempt indoor dining workers and patrons who test positive for COVID-19:

Workers who have tested positive in the past 90 days may present proof of recent infection instead of testing for 90 days afterward.

Any employee who develops symptoms in the 90-day period after a positive test should seek testing. If positive, the individual must isolate. See our map of testing sites. If unable to find a test, the employee should assume that they are positive and isolate.  Read the CDC’s guidance on quarantine and isolation.

For all testing, the employee should not use a rapid antigen/at-home test result unless that test is done on site prior to a shift so the employer can verify the employee’s result. Patrons cannot use rapid antigen at-home tests as proof of their results.  The employer should keep a record of the employees’ positive tests to avoid any discrepancies in their records in the event of an audit by the Health Department.

If no food or drink is sold for consumption on site, continue to follow the guidance pertaining to Philadelphia’s mask mandate: 

  • Masks will be required indoors at all Philadelphia businesses and institutions.
    • Businesses and institutions that require vaccination for all employees and patrons are exempted from having a mask requirement.
  • Businesses and institutions that do not require everyone who enters to be vaccinated must require everyone on site to wear a mask, including staff.
    • No one may eat or drink on the premises.
    • If any individual is unvaccinated, everyone in the establishment must be masked when the masked, unvaccinated person is present, no matter the reason the person is unvaccinated (i.e. medical or religious exemption).

Proof of vaccination

If you require that patrons and staff provide proof of vaccination:

  • Determine procedures for checking vaccination status.
  • Read more about ways to check for proof of vaccination (PDF).
  • Ensure that staff and customers are asked about vaccination in a respectful manner and consistent with applicable privacy laws and standards. Businesses and institutions must obey all applicable local, state, tribal, and territorial laws, regulations, and rules as they consider whether to confirm COVID-19 vaccination status.


If your establishment will not be vaccination-only, customers and staff must be masked at all times while indoors.

  • Create a plan for how you will ensure masking in your establishment.
  • Consider having masks on hand to distribute to customers/patrons who do not have a mask upon entry or whose mask has gotten lost or damaged.
  • Create prominent signage to remind customers and staff to remain masked.  See Health Department posters on masking and vaccination requirements.
  • Consider utilizing staff to remind customers to properly mask while on site. Train staff to remind patrons in a respectful manner. See Health Department tips for asking patrons to mask (PDF).
  • Businesses and institutions should keep a dated contact list of all unmasked patrons for 14 days to help with contact tracing, if needed.
  • If an employee develops a COVID-19 infection or has a positive test, businesses and other organizations must take additional precautions to stop the virus from spreading further. To learn more, see What to do if someone tests positive for COVID-19 at work. To report illness, contact the Health Department by calling 215-685-5488 or emailing
  • Businesses are required to allow employees to isolate or quarantine or to care for family members who need to isolate or quarantine.  Businesses cannot take an adverse employment action against that employee for doing so. See the City’s anti-retaliation law (PDF).


  • Indoor dining locations must post required signs for proof of vaccination.
  • Create a plan to communicate to patrons and staff (including performers, if applicable) in advance to give them time to prepare to enter/frequent/work at your establishment/venue.
  • Communication such as signs and posters on the Health Department website will also help patrons/guests understand how to keep themselves safe while visiting your establishment.
    • Create prominent signage to remind patrons to remain masked unless actively eating or drinking while seated.

Designating “special” events/hours

  • If your business or organization does not require patrons/employees to be vaccinated, you may choose to host a vaccinated-only event, or determine specific hours when your business is open to vaccinated patrons only. The designated hours of operation should be distinct so there is never a question as to whether someone who is unmasked is vaccinated or not. Staff for these designated events/hours must also be vaccinated.
  • Alternatively, if your establishment is open to vaccinated patrons only, you may choose to host an all-masked event, or all-masked-only hours where patrons who are unvaccinated can enter the establishment. Everyone, including staff, must be masked regardless of vaccination status.

Read more about general prevention strategies.

Follow Office guidance if there are offices within your establishment.

If you have questions or concerns, contact the Health Department by calling 215-685-5488 or emailing

See also

  • Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone.
  • If you have questions, call the Department of Public Health at (215) 685-5488.