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Restaurants Continue to Adapt to Illinois’ Indoor Dining Ban

Meanwhile, the courts delivered a few defeats to restaurant owners who want to continue dining room service

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An outdoor dining area with heaters and people sitting at tables that’s covered.
Azul 18 in Pilsen has a unique outdoor space.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

With the first weekend of the state’s indoor dining ban in the books, bar and restaurant owners in Chicago grapple with the challenge of keeping their businesses open. The ban began in the western and southern suburbs and has since expanded to include Chicago and all of Illinois.

Some suburban operators filed lawsuits, asking the courts to allow them to defy Gov. J.B. Prtizker’s order. Despite an early success with a temporary order that allowed one suburban restaurant to stay open, judges thus far are showing a tendency to rule against restaurants.

Late last week, a McHenry County judge denied a temporary restraining order filed jointly by 37 area bars and restaurants trying to stop enforcement the indoor dining shutdown which went into effect on Friday, according to the Northwest Herald. Pritzker reasoned that the mandate was in response to rising COVID-19 positivity rates and hospital admissions. The ruling means that restaurants in McHenry County, which includes cities such as Crystal Lake and Woodstock, are subject to the state’s mitigation order.

Brauer House, a bar, restaurant, and music venue in suburban Lombard, was also denied a temporary restraining order by a DuPage County judge, ownership wrote on Friday in a Facebook post. “It’s with a heavy heart we have to announce we will be closing for the time being,” the post reads. “We fought the good fight and did all we could to stand up for the rights of small business owners.”

The decisions may deflate the hopes of suburban restaurant owners who hoped to see more results like that of Geneva restaurant FoxFire, which secured a temporary court order that allowed indoor service to continue. A Kane County judge last week ruled that he restaurant would be harmed irreparably by another mandatory shutdown. Despite the early court victory, FoxFire may yet find itself subject to the ban: Pritzker and the state of Illinois filed an appeal the next day asking the court to dissolve the temporary restraining order and vacate the ruling allowing dine-in service at the restaurant.

State public health officials on Sunday reported 6,980 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, as well as 35 additional deaths, according to the Tribune.

And in other news...

— A Pilsen restaurant has unveiled a winter sidewalk dining enclosure, according to the Tribune. Azul 18, a New American restaurant with Latin American touches, has teamed up with local custom manufacturing company Bridgewater Studio to create a simple temporary structure of construction scaffolding wrapped in clear vinyl, complete with lights and heaters to make the space more comfortable. The price tag is steep at $15,300, but Bridgewater Studios hopes corporate sponsors and donors will step up to help cover costs. Organizers aim to raise $250,000 on the Winter Patio Initiative website.

— Infamous late-night bar Tais Til 4 is facing extinction, but it’s not from COVID-19. Neighbors are trying to push through a referendum which would make the 16th Precinct dry, meaning shops could only see drinks with 4-percent ABV or lower. As Block Club Chicago notes, that would effectively close down Tai’s, a bar that normally could stay open until 4 a.m. and until 5 a.m. Sundays. The bar is a popular destination for customers leaving Wrigleyville bars at 2 a.m. who want to continue to party; a few Chicago Cubs players have been known to visit over the years. Neighbors claim Tai’s ownership hasn’t been held accountable for violence around the bar. That includes a fatal shooting in February. The referendum would affect the east side of the 3600 block of Ashland Avenue and the west of the 3600 block of Southport Avenue and anywhere within the precinct for four years, according Block Club. The bar has been closed since Gov. J.B. Pritkzer’s March stay-at-home order.

One Off Hospitality Group (Avec, Publican, Big Star) has launched a national food delivery service. Now customers can order items like Publican’s roasted chicken and Avec’s stuffed dates and it get it shipped across the country. One Off, like other restaurant companies, are looking for new revenue streams during the pandemic. It’s also shipping fresh meats and selected by the butchers at Publican Quality Meats.

— Philly cheesesteak bar Monti’s is open in a new temporary location at 4131 N. Rockwell Street less than a month after a fire temporarily shuttered the original Talman Avenue restaurant, according to a Facebook post. Pickup and delivery is available via DoorDash.

Publican Quality Meats

825 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 (312) 445-8977 Visit Website

Monti's

4757 N Talman Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60625 Visit Website

Big Star

, , IL 60613 (773) 857-7120 Visit Website

Avec

615 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661 (312) 377-2002 Visit Website

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