CHICAGO — Citing the “incredible progress” that has been made over the past few weeks and months, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot eased restrictions on the ability of restaurants and bars in the city to serve customers at inside this week. Under the new guidelines, restaurants and drinking places in Chicago can increase indoor dining capacity to 50% or 50 people, effective immediately.
The city had allowed restaurants and bars to open up to 40% capacity before this week’s announcement. Additionally, bars and restaurants can now stay open until 1 a.m. and liquor sales at liquor stores and other liquor-licensed businesses can now continue until 11 p.m., a announced the mayor’s office.
“We have made incredible progress over the past few weeks and months, and I thank our business community for their continued commitment to saving lives,” Lightfoot said in a statement released by his office this week. “I am delighted that we have reached 50% capacity, but I again call on all of our businesses and residents to redouble our efforts on what works. We must remain diligent as we continue to move forward with caution and responsibility. .”
Lightfoot told a press conference earlier this week that she would like to see the city open up even more, but is wary of doing so despite declining confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. As restaurant and bar owners across the city scramble to serve more indoor customers, Lightfoot told reporters Tuesday she didn’t want to risk having to shut down if a spike in COVID cases -19 had to happen.
“I’d rather be slow and steady and keep being open than open doors to appease a certain segment and then our cases explode, see our positivity percentage explode, then have to shut it down a third time,” Lightfoot mentioned. “I don’t want to do this.”
As the city continues to move toward reopening as the coronavirus pandemic continues, other COVID-19 regulations will remain in place for the time being, Lightfoot said. Group fitness classes can increase to 20 people while bars, restaurants and other venues cannot allow more than 50 people inside at a time.
Bars wishing to serve alcohol indoors must either serve food or partner with restaurants, which will deliver food to the bars. Tables in restaurants and bars cannot seat more than six people and tables must continue to be spaced six feet apart under the new guidelines. Customers will still be required to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
The Illinois Restaurant Association hailed the easing of restrictions as a “step in the right direction,” but is pushing for Lightfoot to allow more people inside at one time. Restaurant Association President Sam Toia told the Chicago Tribune that he would like to see the maximum number of people allowed inside increased to 150 for special events such as weddings, communions, bar mitzvahs and d other celebrations.
Toia is also asking that restaurant workers be increased on the list to receive coronavirus vaccines.
The easing of restrictions came after the city reached moderate levels in four critical metrics that drive the city’s decision to fully reopen, Lightfoot’s office said. As of Tuesday, Chicago’s positivity rate stood at 2.9% and the city was averaging 283 positive coronavirus cases per day.
“We have moved in the right direction and I commend the people of Chicago for continuing to do what it takes to help us contain the spread of the virus,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady. , in a press release. “We need to keep going so we can keep reopening our city safely and smartly and get back to doing the things we love.”
Lightfoot announced this week that it is considering fans being able to return to sporting events in person “at some point this season”. Fans weren’t allowed to attend games at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field last season, but Lightfoot – who holds a season ticket for White Sox games – said she hoped to change that this summer .