Chicago’s mask mandate returns Friday in public indoor spaces, which means local restaurant and bar patrons are once again required to wear facial coverings regardless of vaccination status. The return to COVID-19 mitigations, propelled by rising case numbers attributed to the highly contagious delta variant, comes more than two months after officials fully reopened the city.
Masks aren’t required on outdoor patios, as health experts say open-air spaces decrease the risk of transmission, but otherwise diners age two and older should only remove them when “actively eating or drinking.”
Officials have not reinstated social distancing rules at this point, but they are encouraging venues to space out indoor dining rooms as much as possible. The measures align with a late-July guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended masking up indoors.
Chicago reported an average of 462 daily cases as this week. As the city again lurches into a new round of pandemic measures, some policy carryovers from pre-vaccine days remain: To-go cocktails are still legal in Illinois and will remain so until 2024, per legislation signed in early June by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. In addition, officials in late June voted to extend the 15 percent cap on fees that third-party delivery companies such as Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash can charge restaurants, drawing out the rule until December.
Masking rules are almost always preferable to capacity restrictions for Chicago restaurant and bar owners, and many have anxiously watched as case numbers grew across the city and country. Nearly 70 Chicago-area hospitality businesses aren’t waiting for officials to step in, and have issued their own vaccine requirements for patrons to show proof of vaccination — or in some cases, a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours — for entry.
And in other news...
— Local nonprofit Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health, designed to connect Chicagoans in low-income neighborhoods with free therapy, aims to raise $50,000 for a new space by the end of August, leadership writes online. It’s scheduled to exit its cafe at 3243 N. Broadway on September 15. Founder Christopher LeMark contends that the move is due to a non-compete agreement between the building’s management company and an incoming nearby business — a normal contractual issue that companies like Starbucks have long woven into their lease agreements to eliminate competition. Reps for the landlord, however, say the cafe was always meant to be a temporary pop-up. Block Club Chicago has more.
— Beatrix, Lettuce Entertain You’s all-day restaurant, will be adding a fifth full-service location in the spring of 2022, its first in the Loop. The new Beatrix will be at 155 N. Wacker Drive, already the site of a Beatrix Market. There will be indoor and outdoor dining, a coffee and pastry counter, and a bar with cocktails.
— Stan’s Donuts, the L.A. import that has been slowly taking over Chicago since Rich Labriola brought it here in 2014, will be opening its 15th area location next month at 15 W. Washington Street in the Loop. In addition, the chain will introduce a savory breakfast menu that will include classic and pretzel “Stanwiches,” breakfast burritos, hash browns, egg bites, and oatmeal.
— Devereaux, the rooftop bar at the Viceroy Chicago hotel, reopens Monday, August 30, with a benefit for the nonprofit Dress For Success. The event will feature tastings from Une Femme wines and food from chef Stephen Gillanders (S.K.Y., Apolonia). Tickets are $50, available through Tock; part of the proceeds will be donated to Dress For Success, and attendees are welcome to give more if they choose.
— Virtue Cider will be launching Cider Society, its first-ever cider subscription box, on September 15. Boxes will cost $110 apiece and arrive quarterly; the first, Autumn Club, contains four of Virtue’s Apple Fest Ciders: Jonathan, Spitz, Golden Russet, and Baldwin. In addition, Virtue will be introducing a hoppy new cider, Solar Hop, in November. The company was founded by Greg Hall, the Bourbon County Stout pioneer who spent two decades as brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Company.
— With theaters reopening this fall, 65 members of the League of Chicago Theatres will require that audiences provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test when they enter the theater and wear masks during performances. Performers, crew, and staff are also required to be vaccinated or show proof of a negative test. The regulations go into effect September 1 and will last until the end of 2021.