Chicago restaurants battle new coronavirus dining restrictions – NBC Chicago


As a chill sets in over Chicago, struggling restaurant owners fear sales will drop sharply once again when winter arrives.

“I’m probably considering closing my restaurant if indoor dining isn’t restored to at least 25%. I don’t think we’re asking too much here,” said Jodi Agee, owner of Jefferson Tap and Grill.

Agee was one of six restaurateurs to express their frustration over restrictions on restaurants in Chicago, during a press conference on Wednesday.

The Fulton Market Association, a nonprofit economic development agency, released data from the city of Chicago that it says shows no significant link between Chicago restaurants and the spread of COVID.

“It’s time for the City of Chicago to stop scapegoating restaurants for the spread of this virus,” said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Fulton Market Association.

According to the data, between June 1 and September 15, 22 of Chicago’s 7,300 restaurants were closed for failing to follow city safety rules.

Of the city’s estimated 75,000 restaurant workers, 297 tested positive for COVID during that time.

And of the city’s 17,963 new COVID cases during that time, 585 people said they visited a restaurant within 14 days of feeling sick or contracting the virus. It should be noted that the city was only able to contact and interview about 8,000 people who tested positive.

“It took us 40 days, 40 days to get this data. I’m a little worried about that,” said Romanelli, who submitted a freedom of information request on Sept. 29 to get the information.

“We need dialogue. We need cooperation. We need an end to the blame game. We need teamwork,” Romanelli said.

NBC5 Investigates has obtained a confidential list of all outbreaks, kept by the state, from the start of the pandemic through mid-September. We found that the state had 118 confirmed outbreaks in restaurants and bars across the state, resulting in 448 coronavirus infections. But none of the outbreaks on this list have occurred in the city of Chicago.

“We suffered,” said Nancy Bruni, of B Hospitality Group. “We were responsible. Now winter is coming. We don’t know what to do. The radiators cost an arm and a leg. We feel like we’re not getting anything back from the city.”

“In reality, no matter how many heaters you have or tents you put up, the service we can provide outdoors is less. We’re never going to realize the revenue we made with the indoor service,” said Michael Roper, owner of Hop Leaf. .

Currently, by order of the governor, restaurants can only serve customers outside.

Using this data, the Fulton Market Association presents a list of demands to the Mayor of Chicago, including requesting a weekly conference call with city officials to discuss new safety protocols if needed.

They also want the mayor to present the city’s data to the governor and advocate restoring indoor dining to 25% occupancy. They ask officials to distinguish between bars and restaurants when recording data. They are asking for more financial assistance and asking that restaurants be exempt from paying rent or property taxes for the rest of 2020.

“Explain to me how you can walk into any store in the city or suburbs and touch products that have not been sanitized or wiped down as religiously as our industry? Few other industries religiously take the same steps as we do,” said Rich Ruffolo, of Forno Rosso restaurant group.

In a statement, the town hall published the following:

“While the city follows Illinois State public health regulations, including banning indoor dining and bar services, we know this has placed a significant burden on bars, restaurants and the people they employ. Due to the widespread community outbreak we now have, it is difficult to know for sure where anyone has been exposed to COVID-19. However, our data and external studies indicate that there are significant concerns about these places Our case investigations and contact tracing have shown that one of the most frequent places that people infected with COVID-19 have reported visiting over the past two weeks before they tested positive were bars and restaurants. Moreover, even when restaurants and bars follow the guidelines, they are inherently a concern during a pandemic: it is difficult to maintain a In social distancing, people often talk and interact in close proximity to each other, and they frequently have to remove their masks for eating and skating, increasing the risk of transmission. One of the many unfortunate consequences of this pandemic has been the detrimental impact on the hospitality industry, but we are committed to continuing to work with the industry to help it through this difficult time. »


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