Chicago restaurants adapt to Illinois ban on indoor dining

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With the first weekend of the in-state dining ban on the books, bar and restaurant owners in Chicago are grappling with the challenge of keeping their businesses open. Prohibition began in the western and southern suburbs and has since expanded to include Chicago and all of Illinois.

Some commuter operators have filed lawsuits, asking the courts to allow them to defy Governor JB Prtizker’s order. Despite early success with a temporary order that allowed a suburban restaurant to stay open, judges have so far shown a tendency to rule against the restaurants.

Late last week, a McHenry County judge dismissed a temporary restraining order jointly filed by 37 area bars and restaurants trying to prevent enforcement of the indoor restaurant closure that is entry into force on Friday, according to the Northwest Herald. Pritzker said the mandate was in response to rising COVID-19 positivity rates and hospital admissions. The ruling means restaurants in McHenry County, which includes towns such as Crystal Lake and Woodstock, are subject to the state’s mitigation order.

Brauer House, a bar, restaurant and music venue in suburban Lombard, was also denied a temporary restraining order by a DuPage County judge, the owner wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “It is with heavy hearts that we must announce that we will be closing for the time being,” the post read. “We fought the good fight and did everything we could to defend the rights of small business owners.”

The rulings could deflate the hopes of suburban restaurant owners hoping to see more results like that of Geneva restaurant FoxFire, which won a temporary court order allowing indoor service to continue. A Kane County judge ruled last week that his restaurant would be damaged beyond repair by another mandatory closure. Despite the court’s early victory, FoxFire could still find itself subject to the ban: Pritzker and the State of Illinois filed an appeal the next day asking the court to dissolve the temporary restraining order and overturn the decision authorizing the catering service in the restaurant.

On Sunday, state public health officials reported 6,980 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, along with 35 additional deaths, according to the Grandstand.

And in other news…

— A restaurant in Pilsen has unveiled a winter sidewalk dining enclosure, according to the Grandstand. Azul 18, a new American restaurant with Latin touches, has teamed up with local custom fabrication company Bridgewater Studio to create a simple temporary structure of construction scaffolding wrapped in clear vinyl, complete with lights and heaters to make the space more comfortable. The price is high at $15,300, but Bridgewater Studios is hoping corporate sponsors and donors will step in to help defray the costs. Organizers are aiming to raise $250,000 through the Winter Patio Initiative website.

– The infamous late-night bar Tais Til 4 is facing extinction, but it’s not because of COVID-19. Neighbors are trying to push through a referendum that would dry up the 16th arrondissement, meaning stores could only see drinks with 4% ABV or less. As Block Club Chicago notes, that would effectively close Tai’s, a bar that could normally stay open until 4 a.m. and until 5 a.m. on Sundays. The bar is a popular destination for patrons who leave Wrigleyville’s bars at 2 a.m. and want to keep the party going. a few Chicago Cubs players are known to have visited over the years. Neighbors claim Tai’s property was not held responsible for the violence around the bar. This includes a fatal shooting in February. The referendum would affect the east side of the 3600 block of Ashland Avenue and the west of the 3600 block of Southport Avenue and anywhere within the precinct for four years, according to Block Club. The bar has been closed since Governor JB Pritkzer’s stay-at-home order in March.

— One Off Hospitality Group (Avec, Publican, Big Star) has launched a national meal delivery service. Now customers can order items like roast chicken from Publican and stuffed dates from Avec and have them shipped across the country. One Off, like other restaurant businesses, is looking for new sources of revenue during the pandemic. It also means shipping fresh meat selected by the butchers of Publican Quality Meats.

– Philly cheesesteak bar Monti’s is open in a new temporary location at 4131 N. Rockwell Street less than a month after a fire temporarily closed the original restaurant on Talman Avenue, according to a Facebook post. Pickup and delivery is available through DoorDash.

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