Chicago restaurants get creative for Valentine’s Day despite COVID-19 capacity restrictions – CBS Chicago

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Valentine’s Day usually brings a rush of loving couples to restaurants.

This is also the case this year – with a reprieve from freezing temperatures in Chicago, but also with restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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On Sunday, CBS 2’s Marissa Parra explored how some restaurants are getting creative with capacity limits.

Money doesn’t buy love, but it turns out that the day of love brings business.

“It’s a good thing the phone is starting to ring, we like that sound, it’s a good sound for us,” said chef Dominique Tougne of Chez Moi and French Quiche, both on Halsted Street in Lincoln Park. .

That phone ringing is a welcome sound, as Valentine’s Day brings orders in numbers that Tougne hasn’t seen in a while.

“We are at maximum capacity tonight,” Tougne said.

This week, ahead of the Cupid’s Day rush, the city changed capacity rules to be 25% or 50 people per room, whichever is lower.

For Chez Moi, nothing really changes.

“When they say you can go up to 50 people in a room, I still can’t,” Tougne said, “because you see, it’s a small restaurant, so you can’t really increase the ability. You can’t push the walls, you know?

For others like Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, 1028 N. Rush St., the capacity limit change has changed everything.

“In the main dining room here at Gibsons, we were able to go to 50 people on 25%. We were also able to bring back some employees that we had laid off,” said John Colletti of Gibsons. “It’s huge. It’s enormous.”

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But in the struggle to survive this year-long rollercoaster – with fewer people allowed inside, spaced out – small restaurants have started to think outside the box by getting crafty with what’s in take-out boxes specials.

“We came up with an idea that we call the Gourmet Box,” Tounge said. “I like to say that the restaurant is called ‘Chez Moi’ and our gourmet box is called ‘Chez Toi’.”

That is to say “at your place” rather than “at my place”.

The whole business model is different from before. Places like Chez Moi, at 2100 N. Halsted St. on Dickens Avenue, are getting as many takeout orders as they are dinner reservations.

“It’s probably 50/50. We probably did as much takeout as we have in the restaurant,” Tounge said.

He said such a thing had never happened before.

“No, it’s new,” Tounge said.

But Colletti said while things may look different, restaurants will always be a place that brings people together — even if they’re six feet apart.

“There are memories that happen on that day, especially Valentine’s Day,” Colletti said. “I just heard one this morning while sitting at the bar about a couple who met here. They met here about eight, ten years ago; just got married about five years ago. That’s wonderful. We love to hear these stories. That’s what we’re here for. »

Many Chicago restaurants had been pushing for the city to reach 50% capacity by this weekend. The city said it depends on parameters such as positivity rates and intensive care capacity.

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Once Chicago reaches a “moderate risk” level, the level will increase to 40% – then to 50% if we can sustain it for two weeks.

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