Going into the weekend, Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave Chicago some positive news: The city’s restaurants could open earlier than expected. Restaurant owners have circled June 26 since Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week unveiled his five-phase Restore Illinois plan. But in an interview with the Tribune, Lightfoot says she’d be open to working with Pritzker to allow dine-restaurants to open earlier.
This would be welcome news for restaurant owners who have watched the novel coronavirus pandemic decimate the industry since mid-March. The Illinois Restaurant Association has worked with federal, state, and local officials on finding ways to help. The association wasn’t pleased with Pritzker’s plan, with CEO and President Sam Toia frustrated that they weren’t consulted in developing Restore Illinois. Toia has lobbied for restaurants to be eligible to open on May 29 which falls under Phase Three of the plan, rather than Phase Four, when restaurants would be allowed to reopen dining rooms. The Tribune points out that Lightfoot has included Toia on her coronavirus recover task force.
Under the existing framework, Toia tells BisNow that despite the June 26 eligibility date, that realistically the earliest Illinois restaurants could open is July. Experts see restaurants reopening only with social distancing, reduced capacities, and staff wearing masks.
June 26 represents the earliest Phase Four of the recovery plan could start. Instead of being dependent on time, the framework depends on if certain health benchmarks are achieved. Pritzker has split the state into four parts, and Chicago resides in the Northeast Region. This way, if other regions are progressing at a faster rate than their peers, they could reopen businesses faster. There have been rumblings that restaurants elsewhere in the state could open earlier than the June 26 target.
Lightfoot on Friday also hinted at closing streets to give restaurants more outdoor dining space, according to the Sun-Times. She tweeted that the city would start thinking creatively. Other cities across America have already announced plans to do so. Berkeley, California approved a measure on Thursday.