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Chicago’s Restaurants Can Reopen for Outdoor Dining on June 3

Mayor Lori Lightfoot talked about patio permits, open roads, and more

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A sidewalk patio.
Heritage Restaurant in Humboldt Park has a patio.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
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.

Chicago’s restaurants can reopen for outdoor dining on Wednesday, June 3, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced during a Thursday media conference. This will come four days after restaurants in other parts of the state resume serving customers as they move into Phase Three of Restore Illinois. The city revealed its reopening guidelines for restaurants earlier this week.

In emotional remarks that addressed a violent Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, and the police-related death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Lightfoot revealed that city was finally ready for reopen businesses like hotels and golf courses (not on the lakefront)

“We’ll also see the partial reopening of restaurants and coffee shops with a focus on outdoor space,” Lightfoot said.

The mayor congratulated residents from “all walks of life” for staying at home and reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus. But she also cautioned that she won’t hesitate to demote Chicago back to Phase Two of the COVID-19 recovery plan if the city sees a regression in public health.

“So folks, let’s just be smart: Let’s follow the guidance. Let’s follow the social distancing, wearing a face covering in public,” Lightfoot said. “All the things you have done because you know this saves lives and reduces the spread of the virus.”

Some restaurant owners have been anxious to get back to business and make money. These owners have mentioned Indiana and Wisconsin which allowed restaurants to open earlier in May. Those neighboring states failed to move Lightfoot. She pointed to spikes in COVID-19.

“We have seen this in other nearby states,” Lightfoot said. “All we have to do is look to the North, the South, the East, and the West for examples.”

The mayor took several questions on restaurant. Here’s a rundown of the restaurant-related highlights:

  • Lightfoot said the city will wait for the June 17 City Council meeting to legalize to-go cocktails. Springfield approved the measure over the weekend, and the bill awaits Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s approval. He’s said he’ll sign it when the legislation makes it to this desk. The mayor didn’t answer a question about when bars could reopen.
  • Restaurants will need permits for outdoor dining. Lightfoot said the city is encouraging restaurants to work with its neighborhood restaurant associations to secure permits. Additionally, restaurants bunched together could apply together for permits on the same block. The mayor also mentioned a “fast-track” permit that could be obtained through the Department of Special Events.
  • Many restaurants and bars on the South and West sides don’t have outdoor seating, so moving into Phase Three won’t have much impact. Lightfoot acknowledged many don’t have those resources and that “they need to have that indoor dining component.” She said she’s been talking to Pritzker over ways to help. Lightfoot worries about small neighborhood restaurants with limited cashflow.
  • The Department of Transportation is working on plans to close off streets to allow additional outdoor seating. It’s looking at traffic patterns and talking with aldermen and other stakeholders. The city has started to reconfigure roadways. Open roads would allow social distance-friendly paths for cyclists and pedestrians, as reported by Streetsblog Chicago.
  • Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar singled out Uncle Remus Fried Chicken for building a website for ordering food to keep its restaurant open during the pandemic, Koval Distillery for using its facilities to make hand sanitizer, and Tock for pivoting from taking reservations to giving restaurants a platform for takeout and delivery orders. These are “true models of innovation despite this crisis.”
  • The city’s guidelines include requiring restaurant workers to wear facial coverings, and for the installation of barriers in instances where customers and workers can’t observe the six-foot rule. To help, the city has launched the Chicago PPE Market so restaurant and other business owners could buy affordable supplies like hand sanitizer, masks, and barriers. The supplies are made by local Chicago manufacturers, Lightfoot said. This is a collaboration with Rheaply.