Chicago Restaurants Coalition calls for expanding indoor restaurant capacity to 50% by Thursday

CHICAGO (WLS) — The Chicago Restaurants Coalition on Monday called for an expansion of indoor dining capacity to 50% by Thursday.

The weekend’s warm weather drew in customers and underscored Chicago restaurateurs’ desire to ramp up to normal.

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“Last weekend we were open and the weather was a little better for a few days, and every night we had to turn people away,” said Mary Kay Tuzi, owner of Twin Anchors Ribs. “I just watch the dollars come out my door.”

Tuzi and the other members of the Chicago Restaurants Coalition are calling for a dramatic relaxation of the rules governing indoor dining during the pandemic — especially as the city’s test positivity rates are now below 3% and have tendency to decrease.

“Restaurants cannot be punished by city hall alone, by city hall wanting to include the daily number of COVID cases, intensive care hospital beds and COVID-related ER visits. Let’s all agree that we’re focused on the positivity rate – and this should apply to all commercial businesses that serve the public – and restaurants cannot be burdened solely by including a myriad of other COVID-19 measures,” said Roger Romanelli, Executive Director of the Chicago Restaurants Coalition.

“We use the common phrase now that we’re all in the same boat. Well, some are in a yacht, some are in a boat, some are in a canoe. Unfortunately, the African American community as a whole, generally , is in a canoe,” said Anthony Waller, CEO, Out of the Box Catering. “I don’t take everything lightly, but it’s the real reality. When you look at people of color, my brown friends and my Latino friends, the fact is, when you look at the vaccination rate that we’re able to achieve – we’re still at the bottom of the totem pole.”

In Greektown, owners gather for a week of restoration celebrating the 200th anniversary of Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. Artopolis saw its revenue drop 65% from a year ago amid a storm of changing regulations.

“We see a correlation between the lifting of restrictions and our level of decline,” said George Reveliotis, partner at Artopolis.

With the advent of new vaccines, Reveliotis said safety remains the number one priority – but companies’ window of survival depends on swift action by city hall.

“Taking into consideration all the new safeguards and new habits that people have formed,” Reveliotis explained. “So people are more aware of germs and bacteria, so now maybe we’ll expand our tables a bit further.”

Chicago expanded restaurant capacity to 40% 13 days ago and said it would reassess after two weeks, which would be Tuesday.

The city said all metrics — including test positivity, new cases, emergency room visits and intensive care beds — must be in the moderate risk category for two weeks.

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