As Chicago reopens its lakefront restaurants and bars — venues like Shore Club, Castaways, and Reggie’s On the Beach — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday morning announced new COVID-19 guidelines designed to give local municipalities more authority to enforce safety rules. The governor also signed a bill that raises the penalty for attacking retail workers — including servers — who tell customers to wear masks or observe social distancing.
Senate Bill 471 is now law and upgrades attacking servers from simple battery to aggravated battery. That comes with a $2,500 fine. While the governor’s announcement will please those horrified by viral videos of people behaving badly at restaurants and stores, the impact on Chicago is minimal. The city already has guidelines in places which are stricter than the ones Pritzker announced during his Friday morning briefing. Still, novel coronavirus cases are in the rise in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois The seven-day rolling average for daily cases in Chicago is at 294, up 8 percent from last week.
“This is a make or break moment for the state of Illinois. for making sure people are doing everything they can to mitigate to reduce the spread,” Pritzker said at his Friday morning COVID-19 briefing. “This is a moment to enforce the masking requirements across the state.”
The city of Chicago already has its own rules. Upon hearing a complaint, a city inspector from Business and Consumer Protection or Cultural Affairs and Special Events, will make a visit to a restaurant or bar. After observing a violation, the inspector will usually verbally ask the business owner to voluntarily fix the problem.
The inspector will make a second visit, and if the violation continues, they can issue a citation which comes with a fine. Subsequent visits that find violations could result in a business being shut down. A business could reopen after formally submit a plan to the city that shows how the problem would be addressed. The city doesn’t want to shut down a business in these difficult times but wants owners to take the public health threat seriously.
Pritzker said Friday he wanted a “minimum enforcement mechanism” for other parts of the state. Businesses which violate safety rules will first receive a written warning to voluntarily comply. If owners refuse, they’ll be given an order have all or some of their customers leave the premises. If that doesn’t convince businesses to abide, they’ll be charged with a class A misdemeanor which comes with fines from $75 to $2,500.
The governor he doesn’t want police to arrest violators, but he wants the public to take the threat seriously. Illinois Restaurant Association President & CEO Sam Toia also spoke at Friday’s briefing and supported the new rules.
“It would be catastrophic to shut down our economy once again,” Toia said. “It would be the death of the hospitality industry in the state of Illinois.”
Toia said the rules protect workers and customers. He also added a tagline, fit for a bumper sticker or T-shirt: “As we say at the Illinois Restaurant Association: covered faces keep open places.”
And in other news...
— Alinea has extended its rooftop pop-up in Fulton Market, Alinea in Residence, to the end of September. Originally, the crew behind the three-Michelin-starred restaurant announced that pop-up would last through August 15.
— After a battle with a local neighborhood group, Innertown Pub has opened its patio. The Ukrainian Village dive bar had applied for outdoor seating, but ran into some interference from the East Village Neighborhood Association, a non-elected group that has authority over permits in the residential area. The Innertown, a 37-year-old bar, had set up an enclosed driveway with six tables, hoping to stay open (bars aren’t permitted to serve indoors in Chicago). Ald. (2nd Ward) Brian Hopkins gave the bar the OK, and the Innertown is ready to serve customers and hire back its workers.
— Wells Street in River North will close to vehicles between Huron and Superior for weekend street dining starting Friday, according to a news release. Participating restaurants include popular area spots Avli River North, GT Prime Steakhouse, and Prosecco. Expanded outdoor dining is designed to create a safer environment for patrons and workers and gives restaurants a much-needed boost in the number of diners they can serve. Wells Street’s street dining program will run from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday through Sunday for the duration of patio season.
— The team at Schwa have started a pizza pop-up to benefit My Block My Hood My City. The effort involves Schwa, former Schwa chef Brian Fisher (Entente), Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream, and Table, Donkey and Stick. Order via Tock on Schwa’s page for Monday, August 10. The Schwa pizza is sold out, but two other remain. Pick up is at Schwa.
— Non-profit Chicago vegan ice cream business JUSTice Cream is raising funds for social justice organizations with specialized flavors to reflect the work of each group, according to the Tribune. Options include “ABOLECHE ICE,” (tres leches cake, strawberry), which funds Chicago grassroots organization Organized Communities Against Deportations, and “Fudge the Police,” (mint cookies and cream, fudge, CBD) for Black Lives Matter. JUSTice Cream hopes to scale up in the future, and is raising money for equipment and resources on GoFundMe with a $40,000 goal.
— Jennifer Contraveos, a hospitality industry veteran and senior portfolio ambassador for Bacardi, has teamed up with partner Jonathan Zaragoza of essential Mexican restaurant Birrieria Zaragoza, on a new ice cream venture called “A Sundae Kind of Love,” according to Time Out Chicago. It’s a series of pop-up events in Logan Square where patrons can expect flavors like lemon sherbet with Michigan blueberry ripple and sweet corn with an ancho abuelita “magic shell,” salted cajeta, and cinnamon Buñuelos de Viento. Interested parties can keep up to date on upcoming events on Instagram.
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— And for even more ice cream news, local purveyor Pretty Cool Ice Cream is offering a twist on viral Instagram trend “Challenge Accepted” to raise money for local domestic violence resources non-profit CAWC, according to a social media post. The social media challenge has been attributed, at least in part, to efforts to draw attention to high rates of violence against Turkish women. Pretty Cool chef and owner Dana Salls Cree writes that the flavor is made with chocolate ice cream infused with baharat, a cinnamon and ginger-y spice blend popular in Turkey and across the Middle East, as well as a tart sour cream ice cream, likening it to a spice cake topped with cream cheese frosting. CAWC is the city’s oldest women’s shelter, and the group that restaurants and bars rallied around last year for the one of the industry’s largest fundraisers.