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As COVID-19 Cases Creep Up, Chicago’s Mask Mandate Will Remain for Restaurants and Bars

Plus, Starbucks former executive bizarrely invokes the Holocaust in the midst of a contentions union fight

A bartender wearing a black face mask shakes a cocktail behind a bar.
Chicago’s mask mandate remains in place as COVID-19 case rates increase.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

Ever since Gov. J.B. Pritzker teased the state that he’d like to eliminate the indoor mask mandate by Thanksgiving, restaurant and bar owners have awaited an update. With the thermometer sinking and the end of daylight saving time, patio business has predictably tanked. However, early fall stats from health experts show the mandate won’t be banished anytime soon. The mask mandate was reinstated in August.

Though COVID-19 numbers declined in September and October, November has seen an increase. Axios reports that from October 21 to November 4, Chicago’s daily rate has jumped 32 percent. The city’s daily case average, as of Tuesday, sits at 382.

That’s bad news for getting rid of the mask mandate as Chicago Health Department Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady tells Axios that the city’s average daily caseload would need to sink to under 200 for two weeks to consider lifting the requirement. Arwady blames colder weather that’s forcing more folks indoors, thus giving the virus a greater opportunity to spread. Elsewhere across the country, in warmer southern states and in cities like Atlanta, local officials have removed indoor mask requirements.

Chicago’s winters are boons to delivery and carryout sales under normal circumstances. However, bars do substantial business during the colder months. Business owners say that they’re frustrated and fatigued. They are warning Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot that they don’t want state and local officials to prematurely lift the mask mandate and then bring it back after a few weeks or months. The city and state’s vaccination rates will influence those decisions. The city’s goal is 77 percent, to match the number of Chicago neighborhoods. The good news is that the city is close as the latest figures show 65 percent of Chicagoans 12 or older have received at least one dose.

And there’s good news for restaurants that cater to families like pizzerias and diners which have seen business plummet with parents hesitant to bring in their unvaccinated children. As kids are finally eligible for vaccines, Chicago Public Schools is joining luminaries like Big Bird in encouraging youngsters to get their shots. CPS cancelled classes on Friday to give students more time for immunizations. Yes, Mr. Rodgers, “immunized” — at least in this case — means the same thing as “vaccinated.”

Starbucks accused of union busting

Starbucks attempted to stall a union election just days before workers from three Buffalo, N.Y.-area stores were scheduled to vote on whether to unionize, according to the New York Times. Management and union supporters have both turned to the National Labor Relations Board — the former appealing previous ruling over election logistics, the latter alleging a pattern of intimidation and threats on the part of the company. Former chief executive Howard Schultz, the chain’s largest shareholder, raised eyebrows in a voluntary meeting with workers when he likened the company’s ethos to that of Jewish prisoners during the Holocaust who shared meager resources despite extreme circumstances. A similar saga has recently played out in Chicago as Colectivo Coffee, the Wisconsin-based chain with five Chicago-area locations, spent more than a year locked in a contentious battle with workers over unionization efforts. In August, pro-union employees prevailed and became the largest unionized workforce at a U.S. coffee chain.

Lakeview bistro finally unveils wine list

After months of operating without a liquor license, charming Lakeview French-Canadian bistro Dear Margaret has finally secured the means to serve wine. Veteran sommelier Terry McNeese has assembled a deep list for 40 bottles and 15 glass pours. As the restaurant waited, McNeese had worked as a server.

Kumiko’s star bartender releases a new book on Japanese cocktails

Julia Momose, the acclaimed bartender behind Japanese dining bar Kumiko in West Loop, on Tuesday released her new book The Way of the Cocktail. A Japanese native who grew up Nara prefecture, Momose earned a place among the city’s top cocktail experts while working at the Alinea Group bar the Aviary and GreenRiver before opening Kumiko. In the book, she takes a poetic tone while delving into Japan’s vast cocktail history, philosophy, and culture, according to the Trib.

Kilwins workers request transfers following Hyde Park shooting

No one was injured after gunmen fired shots damaging storefronts and cars parked on the 1500 block of East 53rd Street in Hyde Park. Hyde Park Herald spoke with the owner of the local Kilwins, which was closed during the incident. Sweet shop co-owner Janel Jackson says all six of her employee have asked for transfers to other locations “because they no longer feel safe.” Jackson says that might affect her decision to extend her lease. Kilwins has been open in Hyde Park since 2012.

Todd Ricketts steps down from RNC post

Todd Ricketts has stepped down as finance chair for Republican National Committee. Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, has held the chair since 2018, according to the Tribune. The Ricketts family, via their development group, Hickory Street Capital, were responsible for building Hotel Zachary and Gallagher Way and its restaurants (Big Star, Smoke Daddy, Mordecai) across the street and in front of Wrigley Field.

Kilwins

5226 South Harper Avenue, , IL 60615 (773) 675-6731 Visit Website

Starbucks

4365 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60641 (773) 736-5226 Visit Website

Colectivo Coffee

2261 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 799-8557 Visit Website

Dear Margaret

2965 North Lincoln Avenue, , IL 60657 (773) 360-8213 Visit Website

Chicago Public Schools

125 S Clark St, Chicago, IL 60602 (773) 553-1000

Wrigley Field

, Chicago, IL 60613

Kumiko

630 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 285-2912 Visit Website

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