Lightfoot to allow Chicago restaurants and bars to operate at 50% capacity: trade group

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With vaccinations ramping up, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is loosening her grip on restaurants and bars again, but not enough to satisfy the hard-hit industry.

The revised regulations, effective immediately, allow Chicago restaurants and bars to increase indoor capacity to 50% or 50 people, whichever is lower. The limits were 40% or 50 people.

Bars and restaurants that had been forced to stop serving customers at 11 p.m. can stay open until 1 a.m. It’s a vital lifeline for businesses struggling to survive after closing their dining rooms twice during the pandemic. Liquor sales by liquor stores and other establishments may continue until 11 p.m. Indoor fitness classes can increase up to 20 people.

Illinois Restaurant Association President Toia understands the mayor’s decision to cautiously reopen as if he was “turning the dimmer” instead of flipping a switch.

But he still wants Lightfoot to speed up that switch – by increasing the capacity of each dining room or designated area separated by a plexiglass divider from 50 people to 100 or 150.

“You cannot cater for more than 50 people. We are entering spring here. You have a lot of communions, graduations, Bar Mitzvahs, weddings,” Toia said.

“We would really like to see it go up to 150 per room. But we understand that we are moving in stages here. So going up to 100 would be better than 50.”

Another big help would be to vaccinate restaurant workers earlier by “boosting” them to Category 1B, instead of 1C, Toia said.

“Grocery store employees are in 1B. Our workers are essential workers, just like grocery store workers,” Toia said.

“We feel that restaurants are a big part of the food chain here in the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago and that restaurant workers should be in the same category as 1B grocery store workers and be able to take make an appointment and get vaccinated. at present.”

Len DeFranco, owner of Hawkeye’s Bar & Grill, 1458 W. Taylor St., said Lightfoot’s looser restrictions are “welcome” but not enough for Chicago restaurants in “survival mode.”

Running at 50% “just isn’t enough to break even to pay your rent, to pay your utilities, your insurance, your dram shop, your liquor license, and all the rest of the overhead. It’s just not good enough,” DeFranco said.

“These are fixed costs that do not change depending on whether you are completely closed, as we were during the summer, or whether you are at 40 or 50%. … We want more. Nobody makes money with these numbers.

DeFranco said restaurant owners “don’t want to be reckless” and want to be “good partners in killing this invisible enemy of a virus.” But they need predictability and a “path to 100%” capacity.

“What we would really like is some certainty. We can’t just start filling these restaurants. We must have staff. We need to bring in the sous chef. We need to increase inventory. We would like a little predictability like any other business owner,” he said.

“We just don’t see the relationship between 40, 50, 60, 70 percent [capacity] and a propagation event. … We’ve been 40% open for months. The positivity rate has gone down. We were closed during the summer and the positivity rate increased. It is common sense that restaurants are in no way a broadcaster. Can they be? Sure. But also the post office. Airports too. We just have to be careful.

Lightfoot understands the “great desire” restaurants have to “reopen as fully as possible” after a “dreadful year”. But she also knows what has happened “almost every time” other major cities have “opened up very quickly with very high percentages”.

“They had to close. I want restaurants and bars in Chicago to stay open. Period. So we are taking a much more cautious approach,” the mayor said.

“I know some people don’t like it. But I’d rather be slow and steady and keep being open than open the doors to appease a certain segment and watch our business explode…and have to shut it down a third time.

Even with the increase in restaurant capacity, other remaining municipal controls will be “strictly enforced”, said Commercial Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno.

Bars and breweries must offer food to serve customers inside or partner with a local restaurant. There is a maximum of six customers per table. Bar patrons and restaurant and bar tables must be seated six feet apart. Face coverings must be worn at all times – except when eating and drinking and customers must be seated when eating and drinking.

Sox and Cubs have “very good plans” to allow spectators

A season ticket holder for the Sox, Lightfoot also said “there will be a time this season when you will see fans in the stands” at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field. She didn’t reveal specifics except to say the Sox and Cubs have “developed some really great plans” to make this possible.

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