Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday lifted the state’s mask mandate for those fully vaccinated, but stresses that restaurant owners have the choice in requiring that customers wear facial coverings while patronizing their businesses. The next day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Chicago will follow the state’s lead to match the updated guidance issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC advised that mask wearing isn’t needed in most places where everyone is fully vaccinated, making exceptions from hospitals, schools, public transportation, and jails.
City officials still expressed some apprehension about going maskless indoors until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. At a Tuesday news conference, Chicago Health Department Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said that 38 percent of Chicago residents are fully vaccinated. The city is asking restaurant and bar owners to prominently post signs communicating the house rules to customers — this gives the public the freedom to choose whether or not to enter, Arwady said.
The effectiveness of those signs were tested over the weekend with restaurant and bar owners telling Eater Chicago of a few anxious customers who tried to convince them that the CDC’s guidance meant they no longer needed masks.
The responsibility of vaccine verification will fall upon business owners, to checking vaccine cards in the same manner bouncers ask customers for driver’s licenses. On Tuesday, Arwady described the loosened restrictions as a means for flexibility, thus helping “any setting that does not have the capacity to check vaccination status and/or where employees, clients or attendees are not all known to be vaccinated.”
“When you are in a setting where everybody is vaccinated — fully vaccinated, two weeks post their second dose — you don’t need to wear a mask because that vaccine will protect you better than the mask will, better than the distancing will, better than the hand washing will,” Arwady said.
In other news, the city officially announced the return of Lollapalooza to Grant Park. The music festival will take place July 29 to August 1. Tickets go on sale at noon on Wednesday. The fest regularly brings together food vendors from all over the city to give music fans a taste of Chicago and premium concert prices. Some vendors have told Eater Chicago that sales have been low in recent years with younger patrons electing to shun food purchases. The festival will take place at full capacity with attendees needing to prove they’re fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of each day.
It’s happening. @Lollapalooza returns.— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) May 18, 2021
In alignment with our public health guidance, the world class festival returns to the city later this summer. However, full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test will be required to enjoy the festivities.
Get vaxxed. #OpenChicago pic.twitter.com/yQCSyYJQiz
Here are updates on other openings:
- Navy Pier will move into the next phase of its reopening on Thursday, allowing the public to go inside. The tourist attraction is slated to return in full by Memorial Day Weekend with a number of free summer arts and cultural programs, according to a rep.
- Naperville’s Ribfest is canceled again for the second straight year over concerns about COVID-19, according to the Tribune. The annual festival was scheduled for July in suburban Romeoville for the first time.
- Do Divison Street Festival in West Town is canceled because organizers haven’t had enough time to appropriately plan, according to Block Club Chicago. The West Town Chamber of Commerce will replace it with Summer Stroll, designed to support local businesses.
- Time Out Market Chicago, the enormous food hall in Fulton Market, is teasing a reopening next month but has not yet detailed a specific date or opening lineup. Operators are currently hiring for positions including barbacks and bartenders.
In other news...
— The Palmer House Hilton and the Sheraton Grand Chicago, among the largest hotels in downtown Chicago, are slated to reopen in June after more than a year of pandemic devastation, according to the Tribune. Buoyed by news of Lollapaloozas return, the Sheraton Grand is will reopen to guests on June 7, and the famed Palmer House is accepting reservations starting June 17.
— Steve Dolinsky, the former ABC 7 Chicago food personality known as the Hungry Hound, has landed a new gig four months after leaving his TV gig: a director at Baum Realty Group, where he’ll play matchmaker to landlords and restaurant owners in search of locations, according to Crain’s. He reportedly already has projects underway.
— Wienerschnitzel, the California-based fast-food brand touted as the world’s largest hot dog chain, is eyeing a Midwestern expansion and is seeking franchisees in the region, according to Businesswire. The chain now operates 330 restaurants across 10 states, but it remains to be seen if a West Coast brand can measure up to the high standards of Chicago’s many passionate hot dog aficionados.
— Chef Jason Paskewitz (the Blanchard, Marchesa) will serve as executive chef at Pomeroy, Ballyhoo Hospitality’s modern French bistro and brasserie slated to open in the coming months in suburban Winnetka, according to a rep. The appointment is also a reunion of sorts: Paskewitz previously worked for Ballyhoo at Gemini in Lincoln Park.
— Chef Nick Jirasek (Ludlow Liquors, Young American) has been appointed culinary director at the Ox-Bow School of Art, an educational and residency program in Saugatuck, Michigan. Jirasek tells Eater Chicago he plans to be back and forth between Chicago and Michigan. He sees untapped potential in the space and says it has strong connections to Chicago. He’ll lead the school’s “kitchen department” and will be tasked with creating programs and learning opportunities, according to an Instagram post.