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Chicago Will Reopen Restaurants Wednesday for Outdoor Dining

The city will also go forward with closing streets for tables and chairs

Boarded-up restaurants along a street.
Chicago will proceed with loosening pandemic restrictions Wednesday.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

After consulting with business owners, including those at restaurants, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicago will proceed with loosening COVID-19 restrictions. That means outdoor dining will start on Wednesday, June 3. Additionally, Lightfoot says, contrary to speculation, that the city will begin closing roads to allow restaurants to set up tables and chairs on Wednesday.

“We will reopen tomorrow and take this important next step as planned,” Lightfoot told reporters during her Tuesday morning news conference.

Lightfoot said business owners overwhelmingly told her that they needed to see their customers, and they wanted their communities to see them “resilient and recovering.” Many spent the weekend sweeping up broken glass, taking inventory of stolen items, and contacting insurance companies.

The decision is a stark change from Monday, when Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Awardy warned that mass gatherings, including the ongoing protests over George Floyd’s death and police brutality against African Americans, might stall the reopening process. On Tuesday, Awardy still cautioned that the risk is not eliminated and people should continue to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing.

“I am concerned that [after] this weekend, not just related to the protests but related to a lot of people gathering in Chicago for a lot of reasons, we may see ourselves take a step backwards down the line here in Chicago,” Arwady said Monday. “And that’s because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and that virus does not care what else is going on in the city. Nothing has changed, unfortunately, related to COVID-19. We still do not have a treatment. We still do not have a cure. We do not have a vaccine.”

Chicago’s pilot outdoor dining program, “Make Way for Diners,” is designed to create extra space for customers and to allow restaurants to serve more people than they would be able to at six feet away inside a dining room. The city will block off six streets for outdoor dining in Chatham, Lakeview, Little Italy, Little Village, West Loop, and on Rush Street. Still, it remains unclear how the vandalism and looting in the city will impact reopening plans on Wednesday.