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Chicago’s Vaccination Mandate Could Be Lifted ‘In A Matter of Weeks,’ Says Mayor

Plus, a Pilsen paletero inspires change in the city’s housing policy

a vaccination card lies on top of a place setting of a plate, fork, knife, and napkin
Chicago’s vaccination mandate may be lifted in a few weeks, says Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
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Chicago’s vaccination mandate could be lifted “in a matter of weeks,” as long as the city’s COVID-19 numbers keep dropping, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced in her keynote address at the annual meeting of the Illinois Restaurant Association last Thursday. Previously, Dr. Allison Arwardy, the city’s public health commissioner, had said she was hoping the end date would be in the spring.

The weekly average of COVID-19 cases has been falling precipitously in recent weeks: as of last Friday, February 4, the weekly average of new cases was 2,085, the lowest it’s been in two months, since the omicron variant first arrived in Chicago. But, as Crain’s pointed out, that’s still in the “very high” rate of transmission category, and Arwady had previously said the mandate wouldn’t be lifted until the transmission rate drops to “medium-low.”

The mandate went into effect January 3, when the city’s omicron spike was reaching its peak. It required all patrons over the age of 5 to show proof of vaccination at bars, restaurants, stadiums, and anywhere where they might be unmasked and eating. While many Chicagoans accepted the mandate peacefully, many others did not, and restaurant owners complained that it was bad for business.

Pilsen paleteros’s plight sparks change in Chicago housing policy

A longtime Pilsen paletero whose struggles to find housing and medical care sparked a flood of support from his community is now the first Chicagoan to benefit from a new policy he inspired — one that makes it easier for self-employed workers to qualify from affordable housing. Don Ananías Ocampo, 78, and his ice cream cart are considered fixtures in the area, according to Block Club Chicago, so in 2021 when he underwent knee surgery and his apartment was deemed unsafe, fans raised more than $15,000 on GoFundMe to help as he recovered. Coverage of Ocampo’s plight drew attention from city officials and has now lead the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund officials to change their rules and allow residents like him to self-certify proof of income.

Pssst! Wanna buy a hot chicken chain?

The Budlong Hot Chicken, the local restaurant mini-chain that helped popularize Nashville-style birds in Chicago, is testing the waters for possible changes as owner Jared Leonard is “putting feelers out” to gauge interest in his five remaining locations, according to Crain’s. In an online ad, Leonard has floated an asking price of $3 million for the restaurants, which are listed with a gross revenue as $4.5 million. Founded in 2016, the Budlong had seven Chicago locations before the COVID-19. In the years since, Leonard (who moved to Colorado in 2017) shuttered outposts in the Merchandise Mart and Revival Food Hall in the Loop.

The Budlong’s shuttered Lincoln Square location.
Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago

The Tribune explores an unsung birria destination in Portage Park

Northwest Side storefront Barca Birrieria y Restaurant, a cozy family-owned spot specializing in birria tatemada, could be a strong contender for one of the best spots for the succulent Mexican goat stew in all of Illinois, according to Tribune dining critic Nick Kindelsperger. A pandemic pivot from owner Margarita Nunez, who previously operated Sabor a Jalisco in Avondale, and her son, Osvaldo (Three Legged Tacos), the restaurant at 4754 W. Belmont Avenue features birria topped with “deeply savory consommé” that eschews tomato in favor of a “deeply meaty profile spiked with various spices,” alongside tacos and crispy quesabirria.

The Budlong Hot Chicken

81 South Pennsylvania Street, , CO 80209 (720) 399-2770 Visit Website

The Budlong

1008 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 (773) 270-9005

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