Key to NYC : Everything You Need to Know

To curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York released the Key to NYC. This Key requires patrons and employees of indoor entertainment places, gyms, and restaurants to get at least one dose of the vaccine. Initially, The Key was issued as a part of the Emergency Executive order No 225 on August 16, 2021. However, on A, Executive Order No 226 superseded order No 225 and made some major changes to the requirements of the Key. According to the new order, Key to NYC Pass will be required for all gyms and restaurants and you can find out everything there is to know about it down below. 

The Establishments that Require Key To NYC 

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) published a new page on its website titled Key to NYC. According to it, the mandate includes all covered entities used for entertainment, dining, and fitness purposes. However, it does not apply to public or private schools and high schools, childcare, and senior programs as well as community centers. 

Vaccination of Employees and customers of the following places is mandatory according to the Key to NYC.

Indoor locations of Movie theaters, indoor concert venues, indoor casinos, museums, galleries, botanical gardens, zoos, aquariums, indoor sports arenas, indoor stadiums, indoor exhibition halls, and many other recreational game centers. To sum it up, every indoor entertainment establishment in NYC must have vaccinated staff and patrons. 

Indoor Food places and Restaurants including food courts and catering services. However, the Key exempts restaurants offering only takeaway and delivery services from its requirements.

Indoors Fitness Establishments including indoor gyms, dance studios, and fitness boot camps. 

Key to NYC- Who must be vaccinated according to it?

Vaccination of Full-time staff including interns, volunteers, and contractors is mandatory according to the Key. This also includes all customers dining in or using the indoor facilities.

However, entry of an unvaccinated individual inside the indoor premises for a quick minute is allowed.

Key to NYC

Initially, unvaccinated non-resident contractors had permission to work inside. However, the update made it mandatory for every contractor regardless of where he lives to get at least one dose of the vaccine. The same applies to resident and nonresident sports athletes. However, a non-resident professional sports team or athlete can enter indoor sports premises if they are not based in NYC. Similarly, the key exempts a non-resident associated with this person/team from the vaccination mandate. 

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene includes the following frequently asked questions on its page regarding the Key.

“What about professional athletes who are appearing at an indoor area of a sports stadium or arena and any individuals accompanying them as part of their regular employment —do I need to verify proof of vaccination for them?

Yes, covered entities need to verify proof of vaccination for professional athletes and any individuals accompanying them as part of their regular employment unless these individuals do not live in New York City and are only visiting New York City for the purpose of competing against a professional sports team geographically based in New York City.”

Key to NYC and Retail Stores

If New York Residents want to shop in purely retail stores, they can do so without getting a vaccination. However, this only applies to stores that have no dining area whatsoever. 

Key to NYC

The  Key To NYC’s official page answers the following question. 

“Does Key to NYC apply to purely retail establishments that do not have indoor dinings, such as clothing and toy stores?

No. If an establishment is purely retail, then the establishment is not required to check for proof of vaccination.”

Key to NYC Children

The vaccination mandate applies only to people 12 and above. Hence, those below the age of 12 can enter any indoor premises with a vaccination adult. They must maintain a distance of 6 feet from all people. However, at times when this is not possible, they must wear their mask except when eating/drinking. 

Valid Proofs of Vaccination 

Customers and employees should carry around a receipt proving that the individual received a dose of a FDA/ WHO approved vaccine. The following documents serve as official proof of Vaccination

A New York City COVID Safe Pass

A New York City State Excelsior Pass

A CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card 

A NYC Vaccination Record

An Official Immunization Record from the country or state where the individual received his/her vaccination from

Key to NYC

Additionally, the identity card of the individual needs to be checked along with the vaccination certificate. This ensures the ownership of the individual holding the vaccination certificate. A driver’s license, passport and school/work ID are all valid sources of Identification. 

Protocol Template 

Businesses must maintain a written implementation protocol in order to show that they have accepted the Key to NYC program. New York City has published a template for this protocol. You can download it from

Conflict Resolution Seminar

Of course, New York City officials realize that unvaccinated customers may cause a commotion due to the implementation of the Key. Hence, the Center for Creative Conflict Resolution of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings released a Vaccination Mandate Conflict Resolution Training for Businesses seminar. This webinar discusses how businesses should deal with objections from guests regarding mandatory vaccination. 

Fine for Non-Compliance of Key to NYC 

New York City will check small and big businesses to ensure the implementation of the vaccination requirements. Inspectors began an inspection on September 13, 2021. Every unvaccinated individual inside the covered premises will constitute a separate violation of Order Number 226. Each violation requires a fine of not less than $1000. Moreover, if the person/entity commits a violation within 12 months of the first one, the fine will become $2000. If the person/entity commits a third violation or more in less than 12 months, the fine will increase to $5000 for each violation.


Muhammad Usman Siddiqui
Muhammad Usman Siddiqui
Muhammad Usman Siddiqui is a young entrepreneur from Pakistan. His studies (Petroleum Engineering) has no relation to business but the passion keeps him in this field.

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