The day after he called out St. Patrick’s Day bar crawlers who packed Chicago pubs on Saturday and ignored social distancing guidelines to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said his staff is seriously considering a “lockdown” of the state’s bars and restaurants. Pritzker’s remarks came Sunday morning on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“It’s not easy, you can imagine each one of these decisions has consequences to them that are not just about the pandemic, they’re also about people’s livelihoods,” Pritzker told host Chuck Todd. “So we’re actually looking hard at the decision-making today. we obviously saw what happened in Europe. Nowhere in the United States, really, has there been a lockdown on bars and restaurants, but it’s something that we’ve been seriously looking at.”
Chicago bars in neighborhoods like River North, Wicker Park, and Wrigleyville were packed with customers on Saturday from early morning to late night. Photos streamed on social media showing lines with people waiting outside bars and party buses docking with folks wearing green walking out into the street.
The bars were full, but not as packed as in years past, reflecting a cautious defiance by Chicago bar owners and customers. The Sun-Times reported that bars in River North were at least trying to keep the number of people lower than usual because of the pandemic.
On Thursday, Pritzker recommended events with more than 250 people — like concerts — be canceled. During his Saturday afternoon coronavirus briefing, Pritzker, angry at reports of crowded Chicago bars, asked young people to be more mindful of their actions. He reiterated that stance on Sunday.
“Yesterday I called out the problem of people on the street and unfortunately we haven’t seen a lot of movement,” the governor said on Meet the Press. “People aren’t understanding that even if you’re healthy, even if you’re young, you might be a carrier and you’re going to hand it over to someone else. COVID-19 is spreading and even healthy people can be walking around giving it to other people.”
Illinois now has 66 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the state health department, with the most coming from Chicago and suburban Cook County. On Saturday, Time Out Market Chicago announced it would temporarily close as a precautionary step due to the virus. Other restaurants and bars are expected to follow. Some may pivot to carry-out and delivery. Last week, Chicago-based third-party delivery company Grubhub announced it would suspend the collection of some fees to restaurants in hopes of encouraging more delivery sales.
The city of Chicago on Saturday released its own statement aiming to ramp up enforcement on large gatherings. Bar will be forced to half normal capacity, a mandate that’s been enacted in cities like New York. A bar’s maximum capacity is now 100, under the city’s new rules.
Due to concerns of St. Patrick’s Day festivities continuing through St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, the City today issued new precautionary measures and guidelines to enforce large gatherings at bars and liquor establishments throughout Chicago. As part of the City’s efforts to keep residents safe and healthy, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) are enforcing all business establishments that sell liquor to have less than half of their regular max capacity. Additionally, any establishments that sell liquor will have a max capacity of 100 persons.