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Chicago Halts Indoor Dining Once Again

The new restrictions from Gov. J.B. Pritzker — which also mandate reservations on outdoor dining — go into effect on Friday, October 30

After Major Looting Incident, Chicago Closes Bridges Overnight
Chicago will ban indoor dining on Friday.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Starting Friday, October 30, indoor dining will once again be off the table in Chicago. The governor’s office announced the suspension of indoor dining and a reduction in the maximum size of gatherings to 25 people in response to the city’s growing positivity rate, which has nearly doubled since the start of the month.

Chicago restaurant owners have been preparing for an announcement since October 19, when officials stated that a resumed indoor ban was likely if the city hit an average positivity rate — the percentage of COVID-19 tests that trigger a positive result — of 8 percent for three straight days. On October 26, the city’s positivity rate reached 7.7 percent. While slightly below that threshold, Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said she would rather take action before those numbers became severe.

Gov. J. B. Pritzker initially suspended indoor dining in mid-March following St. Patrick’s Day, which saw customers pack bars and restaurants despite warnings from health experts. Outdoor dining for restaurants initially resumed in early June, with indoor dining returning in late June with a 25 percent capacity limit. That capacity went to 40 percent on October 1.

Region 11 has seen COVID-related hospital admissions and its positivity rate increase more than 7 of the last ten days....

Posted by Governor JB Pritzker on Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A total rollback on indoor dining and bar service means that restaurants will once again look for new strategies to survive as they deal with new restrictions. Not only does the governor’s order re-ban indoor dining, it makes reservations mandatory for outdoor seating — which a number of restaurants have tried to make more comfortable as winter approaches. As one small concession to restaurants, the order does give restaurants and bars an additional hour of service, pushing closing time to 11 p.m. Carryout and delivery can continue.

“I am very worried about what that is going to mean for the financial health of our restaurants, frankly, and all of the people who work at them,” Arwady said.

City and state officials haven’t always appeared in step with messaging. Last week, Arwady and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said restaurants and bars weren’t to blame for the pandemic’s second wave, emphasizing private gatherings as a culprit. However, on October 20, Pritzker announced indoor dining bans for DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, and Will counties. Two days later, Lightfoot ordered the suspension of indoor service for bars without food licenses, and imposed a curfew which forces restaurants and bars to close by 10 p.m. The business curfew will last until November 6, if the rates of infections decrease.

Earlier this week, Pritzker also announced the suspension of indoor dining services in suburban Cook County, which includes towns like Hoffman Estates, Evergreen Park, and Tinley Park.

Unlike Chicago’s two-week business curfew, there’s no hard date for when indoor dining could resume. The state’s news release mentions dining rooms could reopen if the average positivity rate drops to 6.5 percent or lower for three straight days, there’s a decrease in COVID-19-related hospital admissions, and there’s an overall increase in the availability of hospital beds for patients.

  • Governor JB Pritzker [Facebook]
  • Illinois to Suspend Indoor Dining in Suburban Cook County [ECHI]
  • Chicago to Reopen Indoor Restaurants Friday [ECHI]
  • Chicagoans Seated at Restaurants Will Have to Wear Masks Unless They’re Eating [ECHI]
  • Illinois to Halt Indoor Restaurant Service in Western and Southern Suburbs [ECHI]
  • Lightfoot: Don’t Scapegoat Chicago Restaurants for COVID-19 Second Wave [ECHI]
  • Chicago Will Ban Indoor Bar Service to Combat Second Wave of COVID-19 [ECHI]
  • Pritzker could announce tougher coronavirus restrictions in Chicago by Tuesday afternoon [Tribune]
  • What Dining Inside a Dome in Chicago Looks Like [ECHI]