Last updated on September 2nd, 2021 at 02:14 pm

What is “Key to NYC”?

NYC launches “Key to NYC” to help Stop the Spread of Covid

New York City’s new vaccination mandate called the “Key to NYC” ,requires specific establishments to require guests and employees 12 years old over to show proof that they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use by the FDA or WHO before permitting entry

Although the mandate only requires one dose of a Covid vaccine, “Key to NYC” establishments have the right to adopt a stricter policy, requiring full vaccination. As long as they consider reasonable accommodations

What Establishments are required to comply with “Key to NYC”?

When the City first announced the initiative, it applied only to restaurants, gyms and indoor entertainment venues. Since then the list of business required to comply has been expanded.

Effective August 17th, Mayor Bill De Blasio signed Emergency Executive Order 225, requiring compliance for all of the  following “Key to NYC Establishments”:

  • Indoor Fitness
    • gyms, fitness centers, fitness classes, pools, indoor studios and dance studios
  • Indoor Entertainment
    • movie theaters, music and concert venues, museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, professional sports arenas, indoor stadiums, convention centers, exhibition halls, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, pool and billiard halls, recreational game centers, adult entertainment and indoor play areas
  • Indoor Dining
    • All food service establishments subject to the Department of Health Letter Grade System:
      • restaurants, catering halls, event spaces, bars, nightclubs, coffee shops, cafeterias, fast food or quick service with indoor dining
      • dining establishments located in hotels, colleges/universities and malls
    • The following businesses regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Markets, offering indoor seated
      • grocery stores, bodegas, food markets, deli’s
    • All businesses that have indoor seating in food halls, hotels and malls
    • Businesses that provide catering services on-site

What qualifies as “indoor” or “indoor portion”?

Any part of a covered premises with a roof or overhang that is enclosed by at least three walls is considered “indoor”

What spaces are considered “outdoor” and therefor do not require proof of vaccine? 

  • a structure on the sidewalk or roadway if it is entirely open on the side facing the sidewalk; and
  • an outdoor dining structure for individual parties, such as a plastic dome, if it has adequate ventilation to allow for air circulation.

What “indoor” dining spaces are exempt from “Key to NYC” vaccine requirements:

  • Private residential buildings when those settings are available only to residents;
  • Office buildings when those settings are available only to office staff;
  • Pre-K through grade 12 schools;
  • Senior centers;
  • Community Centers;
  • Charitable food services;
  • Child care programs.

Requirements for establishments offering only take-out, delivery, or outdoor dining:

  • Remove all tables, chairs and furnishings used for indoor dining OR
  • Block of area with signs or tape so that they cannot be used

Who must show proof to enter “Key to NYC Establishments”?

  • Full and Part time employees
  • Guests
  • Interns
  • Volunteers
  • Contractors

Do suppliers and vendors need to show proof of vaccination?

No. Businesses do not need proof of vaccination from the following:

  • individuals making deliveries or pickups;
  • individuals entering solely for the purpose of making necessary repairs;
  • individuals picking up items such as food for takeout or delivery.

**suppliers and vendors must wear face masks whenever they are unable to maintain six feet of social distance from other people.

Do businesses have to provide reasonable accommodations for patrons and employees if proof of vaccination is unavailable?

People have the right to be free from discrimination, all “Key to NYC” businesses should consider reasonable accommodations

  • See full guidance from NYC Commission on Human Rights for guests and employees that are unable to provide proof of immunization in accordance with “Key to NYC”
  • See NYC’s Commission on Human Rights full guidance for businesses required to ask for vaccination status

What are acceptable proofs of vaccination?

  • Individuals vaccinated within the US can use the following for proof:
    • NYC Covid Safe App
    • NYS Excelsior Pass
    • CDC Vaccination Card, NYC Vaccination Record (or photo of either) with the following info:
      • first name/last name
      • vaccine brand
      • date(s) administered

Individuals vaccinated outside of the US can use the following for proof:

Official immunization record from outside NYC or the U.S, with the following info:

  • First name/last name/date of birth
  • Vaccine product name(only vaccine authorized for emergency use by the WHO will be accepted)
  • Date(s) administered
  • Site where the vaccine was administered, or name of the person who administered it

Do businesses have to verify if proof of vaccination is real?

No, but if you suspect that someone is presenting a fake vaccine card, you may report by calling 311, report it to the NYS Attorney General by filing a complaint, calling 833-VAX-SCAM (833- 829-7226), or emailing the state Department of Health at

Will businesses require proof of identification?

Yes, to help stop fraud businesses are required to check identification for those patrons that look 18 years of age and older,  and can check identification for those patrons that look 12 years of age and older but aren’t required to.

  • ID’s must be checked at the same time as Proof of Vaccination, to confirm that the person requesting entrance is the same person on the proof of vaccination
  • ID’s must contain:
    • name and photo; or
    • name and date of birth
  • Examples of acceptable proof of identification
    • Drivers License
    • Non-driver government ID Card
    • IDNYC card
    • Passport
    • School or work ID

*** copies or pictures of Identification documents on phones are acceptable

How do food service establishments comply with “Key to NYC”?

  • Require proof of vaccination for everyone 12 years of age and older to enter
  • Allow guests 12 years old and over without proof of immunization
    • to get a table outdoors
    • to enter inside for quick (less than 10 minutes) and limited purposes (use the bathroom, place a food order, pick up a menu etc.) only if they wear a face mask if when unable to maintain 6 feet of distance from other people.
    • to enter without providing proof, as long as they wear a face mask whenever they are unable to maintain 6 feet of social distance
  • Post a sign notifying employees and guests about the vaccine requirement:
    • download the NYC sign for Businesses or
    • make your own
      • must be 8.5 inches by 11 inches,
      • with text provided by DOHMH
      • in at least 14-point font.
    • Place the sign where it is visible to everyone before they enter the indoor area
  • Make sure staff is familiar with accepted proofs of vaccine (see above).
  • Have a written protocol plan available for inspection describing how you will be verifying proof of vaccination for guests and staff
    • Use the fillable form in our resource center to use as your written record

How will “Key to NYC” be enforced?

Beginning September 13th inspectors from various city agencies will be inspecting businesses for compliance with requirements.

Will there be penalties for businesses that don’t comply?

Yes. Once the city starts enforcing the rule on September 13th, businesses that don’t comply are subject to a fine of $1,000 for a first violation, $2,000 for a second, and $5,000 for subsequent rule-breaking.