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Chicago Inspected Restaurants For Social Distance Violations Over the Weekend

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For all businesses, including restaurants, the city received 136 complaints

A bar worker uses a thermometer to take the temp of a customers before allowing them to enter.
Staff at Federales in West Loop took customer temperatures before allowing them to enter.
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.

Over the weekend, city inspectors visited restaurants to see if patios were adhering to social distancing guidelines. June 3 was the first day for open-air dining in Chicago, which allowed restaurants to serve on-premises customers for the first time since the pandemic took hold in mid-March. Strolling through Old Town and West Loop, it was clear some restaurants were ignoring rules meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 with tables positioned too close to each other, customers not wearing masks while standing up, and tables with customers set up more then eight feet away from an open window. This all happened with crowds without masks bunched together outside patios and along sidewalks.

The West Loop Community Organization sent out a newsletter stating Chicago’s Business and Consumer Protection (BACP) department was dispatching “investigative personnel” on Saturday and Sunday to West Loop restaurants. This was in response to complaints. Tables need to be six feet part, with a maximum of six seated per party. Masks can be taken off by seated customers, but they need to be put back on when they get up to go to the bathroom or elsewhere. WLCO’s newsletter did not mention if any of the complaints were tamale related.

Social distancing sign.
Federales is strict about social distancing.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Some restaurants took the guidelines seriously. For example, Federales in West Loop had staffers taking customer temperatures before allowing them to dine. This helps quell worries from customers who carry anxiety dining out during the pandemic. There’s also worry about business owners that a COVID-19 spike would convince the government to wait before allowing indoor dining or once again shut down patio season. June 26 appears to still be the target date for indoor dining.

Restaurants weren’t the only place inspectors visited. Since June 3, the city has received 136 complaints about businesses which didn’t adhere to social distance guidelines, according to BACP. BACP issued three citations for major violations and another 16 warnings for minor infractions. The city didn’t elaborate who committed these violations or say what kind. In that time, the city inspected 78 businesses. The city didn’t immediately reveal which three businesses were cited or any other details beyond those provided.

A patio with customers seated at tables.
Patios on Wells Street in Old Town had different views on social distancing.

Compounding the matter was the display on Sunday at Green Mill, the legendary blues and jazz bar in Uptown. Bars without food cannot sell alcohol for on-site consumption, and live entertainment isn’t permitted. But the bar had a band playing outside with beer for sale and tables set up on the sidewalk. All of this isn’t allowed under Phase Three state and city’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

As the hospitality consultant behind the Chicago Bars Twitter account posts: “People on social media LOVED this scene at Green Mill yesterday but all of it, ALL OF IT, is currently banned by City of Chicago Phase III policy and current ordinances.”

The following is the complete statement from BACP:

“BACP is focusing on outreach and education to ensure that all businesses that are cautiously reopening under phase three are doing so safely and responsibly. We have reached over one thousand businesses with webinars and proactively called an additional one thousand businesses to guide them into compliance during phase three. However, we are prepared to take enforcement action when necessary, and we have issued warnings for minor violations and citations for egregious disregard for the health order. It is critical that our reopening efforts don’t diminish the health progress we’ve made over the last few months.”