Chicago restaurants ask city leaders to increase dining capacity ahead of Valentine’s Day weekend

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Chicago restaurants limping along over the past year are hoping to put some spring in their step.

But the timing must be right. They are pushing for a bigger and faster reopening.

With Valentine’s Day this weekend, restaurants struggling to keep their doors open are hoping the city will change its mind and increase indoor dining capacity.

“Valentine’s Day is an important holiday for restaurants, covid is down, we think the time is right,” said Roger Romanelli, coordinator of the Chicago Restaurants Coalition.

At this time, under the city’s current Phase 4 restrictions, bars and restaurants, such as Hawkeye’s Bar & Grill in Little Italycan accommodate people inside at 25% capacity or 25 people per space.

“We’re struggling like every other restaurant in town,” co-owner Jimmy Venn said.

But with the city’s positivity rate at 4.9%, members of the Chicago Restaurants Coalition are calling on the mayor Lori Lightfoot and the 50 aldermen to increase indoor dining capacity to 50% or 50 people by this Friday, just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend.

“50% would be a huge impact,” Venn said.

The coalition is also asking city leaders for more money for restaurant subsidies and to prevent crime, such as carjackings, because they say it will help diners feel safer.

“We’ve had two criminal incidents here, and one of them was them kicking the door right here on Taylor Street. That would never happen if we had a lot of foot traffic like we used to do that before,” said Len DeFranco, adviser to Hawkeye’s Bar & Grill. .

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When asked if she was considering an increase in capacity, Mayor Lightfoot said she believed new guidelines would be released later this week.

“It’s something we’ve spent time talking about over the weekend and I don’t want to pre-empt our announcement later this week,” Lightfoot said.

The Hawkeye’s co-owner was optimistic about the mayor’s response and said if she increased capacity to 50% they would have a Valentine’s Day card and dinner waiting for her.

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