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Illinois to Roll Back Mask Mandate in Late February as COVID-19 Case Rates Decline

Plus, rowdy customers may lead to the closure of a South Side bar and police shut down a Wicker Park club after shootings

A chef wearing a black mask digs into a dish.
Mask mandates could end soon in Chicago’s bars and restaurants.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

This story and headline have been updated to include details shared in Wednesday’s press conference.

Illinois is on the path to rolling back its its COVID-19 mask mandate on February 28, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday. Case rates are declining and the winter’s omicron surge is on the wane, and other mask mandates, including those in California and New York have been lifted.

“We are on track to come out of the other side of this latest COVID storm in better shape than even the doctors expected,” he said in an afternoon press conference. “If these trends continue — and we expect them to — then on Monday, February, 28, we will lift the indoor mask requirement for the state of Illinois.”

Following Pritzker’s announcement, Chicago’s department of public health tweeted: “If we as a City continue to see declines in these leading COVID metrics, we too should be in a position to lift restrictions at that time.”

For the time being, Chicago and other municipalities in Illinois will still be able to enforce more stringent mitigations than those issued by state officials. Come March, however, the state will still require masks in specific locations: hospitals and health care settings, prisons, nursing homes, and other “congregate facilities” and aboard public transportation. Masks will also remain mandatory in K-12 schools.

News of a change in pandemic rules circulated Tuesday, according to the Tribune, and Pritzker has told audiences and reporters earlier this week that he’s pleased with a notable drop in hospitalizations. The Illinois mask mandate was reinstated in late August with the rise of the highly contagious delta variant.

Pritzker’s announcement comes come on the heels of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s pronouncement last week that officials could lift the city’s vaccination mandate within weeks, should pandemic numbers continue to drop. The rule, which requires patrons age 5 and older to show proof of full vaccination in bars, restaurants, and other public indoor spaces, was implemented in early January in both the city and suburban Cook County.

Once again, Chicago’s hospitality community is bracing for another curveball as weary operators and employees try to keep pace after nearly two chaotic years of COVID-19. Despite the stresses of the moment, these regulations pale in comparison to the indoor dining shutdowns of 2020, and many in the industry are hoping for a bustling spring and summer festival season.

A South Side bar faces a city disciplinary hearing and possible closure

Troubles continue for Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge at 9156 S. Stony Island Avenue in the Burnside neighborhood, which the city claims is providing entertainment without a proper license and whose patrons, neighbors complain, are loud and rowdy when they leave and prone to public urination. A disciplinary hearing before the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) originally scheduled for January 28 has been postponed until February 25, Block Club reports, after the city added several more complaints to the docket. Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) has said she supports shutting down Nipsey’s altogether. But co-owner Teddy Gilmore, whose previous restaurants were the subjects of similar complaints, believes he is being unfairly targeted by the city and hopes the matter can be settled quietly.

A red restaurant building with a black awning that reads “Nipsey’s.”
Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge in Burnside.
Google

Police shut down Wicker Park nightclub after shots fired

The Point nightclub at 1565 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park has been temporarily shut down by police superintendent David Brown for being a threat to public safety after shots were fired into the building at 5 a.m. Sunday, the Sun-Times reports. This was the second incident in six months: an exchange of gunfire in October left one of the gunmen dead, inspiring the city council to ban overnight parking on the 1400 and 1500 blocks of Milwaukee. Both those incidents, though, happened outside of the Point’s business hours, as the Sun-Times points out, and owner Jun Lin had called police twice on Sunday morning to disperse the crowd; the shooting occurred after the last squad car left. In order to reopen, Lin can request a probable cause hearing before Mayor Lori Lightfoot within three days.

A South Side baker takes over a candy factory

Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Chicago Community Trust, Stephanie Hart, owner of Brown Sugar Bakery in Chatham, will expand her candy business, Brown Sugar Life Is Sweet, Block Club reports. Hart bought the Cupid Candies factory at 7637 S. Western Avenue in December 2020, and began selling sea salt caramels and chocolate turtles in January 2021, but the new grant will help her refurbish the building, which needs a lot of structural work, and provide a space for Brown Sugar’s cake-baking operations as well. Hart hopes to be finished with construction by October.

A new Latin music fest debuts in Grant Park over Memorial Day

The Sueños Music Festival, a celebration of Latin reggaeton highlighted by J Balvin, Ozuna, and Wisin & Yandel, will make its debut in Grant Park on May 28 and 29, the Sun-Times reports. In addition to music, the festival, produced by the same folks who bring us Lollapalooza, will also feature food and drink catered by local restaurants and bars, as well as pop-up cocktail lounges and, so as not to be outdone by Riot Fest, a Ferris wheel. Tickets go on sale Friday, February 11.

Week in reviews: Segnatore is a worth successor to Café Marie-Jeanne

Zach Long of Time Out visits Segnatore, the new Italian restaurant that took over the Humboldt Park space previously occupied by the beloved Café Marie-Jeanne, and finds it a worthy successor. “Chef Matt Troost,” Long writes, “compiles a menu that’s reverent in its technique (particularly the handmade pasta) but decidedly playful in its presentation,” which sets it apart from other new Italian spots such as Alla Vita and Adalina.

The Point

401 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60654 (312) 666-1600 Visit Website

Brown Sugar Bakery

328 East 75th Street, , IL 60619 (773) 224-6262 Visit Website

Café Marie-Jeanne

1001 North California Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 904-7660 Visit Website

Segnatore

1001 North California Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 697-9687 Visit Website

Alla Vita

564 West Randolph Street, , IL 60661 (312) 667-0104 Visit Website

Adalina

912 North State Street, , IL 60610 (312) 820-9000 Visit Website

Grant Park

337 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 742-3918 Visit Website

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