Chicago’s struggling restaurants ask city for more support, allow them to offer indoor dining

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CHICAGO — Restaurant owners who say they are being unfairly targeted by COVID-19 restrictions are calling on the City of Chicago to offer them more support and allow them to offer indoor dining.

The owner of Pompeii in Little Italy, Ralph Davino, says he is unsure if he can stay open in the current business climate of COVID-19.

“My business is 100 years old and I want to make sure it stays open,” Davino said.

Chicago restaurants have joined ranks under the auspices of the Chicago Restaurant Coalition. Group chief executive Roger Romanelli says the city’s own data does not support the indoor dining ban.

Romanelli says that from June to September, only 297 workers tested positive out of the 75,000 who work at the city’s 7,300 restaurants.

“Big box stores are allowed to operate, but restaurants in Chicago are not,” Romanelli said. “We can’t make restaurants wait and wait and wait; we could be here until April or May.

It’s been 75 days since the indoor eating ban came into effect and already many restaurants have had to close. As part of the state’s Illinois reopening plan, indoor dining will be allowed to resume after areas like the city of Chicago see their average COVID-19 test positivity rates fall below 8%.

Chicago’s 7-day test positivity rate is 10.3% on Tuesday and is starting to drop again after rising in the days following the holidays.

Twin Anchors owner Mary Kay Tuzi says they’ve followed protocols since the pandemic began, but they don’t know if the restaurant that opened in 1932 can keep them open any longer.

“Our restaurant cannot survive on take-out and delivery alone,” Tuzi said.

Restaurant coalition members are calling on the city to tap into its $2 billion tax increment funding (TIF) reserve to help restaurant employees and owners, and on the city to allow indoor occupancy of 20%.

The owners said they would adhere to social distancing and mitigation guidelines, while the 20% level could be just enough to pay the bills and keep their staff employed.

They say Chicago should make an exception by allowing them to break state restrictions because just outside of town, bars and restaurants are allowed to operate in defiance of orders and in some cases at more than 20% of their capacity.

The group started a petition for residents to ask the city of Chicago to offer them more support and allow them to open to eat inside.

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