In yet another twist for the local hospitality industry, Illinois’s mask mandate could be lifted in time for the winter holidays — namely, Thanksgiving and Christmas — if the state’s COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates continue to decline.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced his hope to end the requirement “as we approach the holidays” at a pandemic briefing, though he did not cite the specific metrics that will signal the end of the mandate, according to the Tribune. The rule, reinstated in late August in Chicago, requires residents age two and older to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces, including bars and restaurants, regardless of vaccination status.
City officials are also contemplating an end to the mandate. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady in a Monday news conference told reporters that once the city’s COVID-19 rates have dropped out of the “substantial” category — fewer than 200 cases per day — she will be “very happy,” but an end to the requirement isn’t yet “imminent,” according to Block Club Chicago. The city is currently at a daily average of 287 cases.
As temperatures dip and diners eat indoors more than on patios, this is an important development. The change would also mean yet another shift for Chicago’s restaurants and bars after 20 months of navigating a range of pandemic mitigations. Mask mandates are difficult to enforce and have positioned hospitality workers on the front lines to endure harassment and abuse from patrons who are unhappy about the rules. Many establishments are also still facing economic challenges and incoming slow winter season, which means Thanksgiving could be an important opportunity to serve both dine-in and takeout holiday customers for the first time since November 2019. Stay tuned for more on how Chicago restaurants plan to tackle this year’s Turkey Day.
Chicago Sky star hits Portillo’s after win
After the Chicago Sky’s WNBA championship victory on Sunday night, star Candace Parker celebrated in the spirit of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, who hit the Chick-fil-A drive-thru the morning after his team won the NBA championship. But Parker, who grew up in Naperville, did it Chicago style: she went to Portillo’s. Parker live-streamed a video of herself at the drive-thru with a carful of family and friends, including her daughter Lailaa. It was unclear what everyone ordered, but during a news conference when she joined the Sky in February, Parker told reporters that her usual order is a fish sandwich with cheese, a jumbo chili cheese dog with no onions, a large order of fries, a chocolate cake shake, and a piece of cake to go (plus a chili cheese dog with extra cheese for Lailaa).
Goose Island nixes in-person beer fest for online sales
Goose Island’s Prop Days are back. The annual event, which gives fans a chance to try the new bourbon barrel-aged variants, will take place the weekend of November 20. In pre-pandemic times, the celebration was a street party, but this year, drinkers will pick up their beer at the Fulton Street Brewery and Taproom. This year’s package costs $130 and consists of two bottles of Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, one bottle each of Fourteen Stout and Cherry Wood Stout, and a commemorative snifter. To get a chance at the package, hopefuls will have to go through a lottery on the app Oznr: interested parties have until Sunday, October 24, to enter.
In related news, Three Floyds Beer sold out of its Dark Lord Day beer packages within the hour after they went on sale Monday night. Three Floyds, like Goose Island, elected not to hold a physical event to distribute its sought-after stout.
Chicago’s two-fisted drinkers can now savor pumpkin spice
There is now pumpkin spice Malört. Honors for the creation of this concoction go to the Wrigleyville dive bar Nisei Lounge, which proudly announced yesterday on Twitter that it is selling $6 Pumpkin Spice Malört shots. Jeppson’s Malört is fully on board with this and posted its approval on Facebook. Nisei is fully embracing all the fall 2021 cocktail trends: as soon as the bar receives its bottle of bourbon caramel syrup, it will start serving espresso martinis.