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COVID-19 Cases Drop, Chicago Restaurants, Bars Open To 50 Percent

Patch logo Patch 3/4/2021 Jeff Arnold
a glass of beer on a table: Chicago's bars and restaurants can now be open to 50 percent capacity for indoor dining thanks to progress that has been made in dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. © Jenna Fisher/Patch Chicago's bars and restaurants can now be open to 50 percent capacity for indoor dining thanks to progress that has been made in dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

CHICAGO — Citing “incredible progress” that has been made in recent weeks and months, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot loosened restrictions on the city’s restaurants and bars ability to serve indoor customers this week. Under the new guidelines, Chicago’s restaurants and drinking establishments can increase indoor dining capacity to 50 percent or 50 people, effective immediately.

The city had been allowing restaurants and bars to open up to 40 percent capacity before this week’s announcement. In addition, bars and restaurants can now remain open until 1 a.m. and alcohol sales from liquor stores and other businesses with liquor licenses can now continue until 11 p.m., the mayor’s office announced.

“We have made incredible progress in recent weeks and months, and I thank our business community for their ongoing commitment to saving lives,” Lightfoot said in a statement issued by her office this week. “I am thrilled that we have reached 50% capacity, but I again call on all of our businesses and residents to double down on what works. We must remain diligent as we continue to move forward cautiously and responsibly.”

Lightfoot said at a news conference earlier this week that she would like to see the city open up even more, but is wary to do so despite drops in confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. While restaurant and bar owners across the city are pushing to serve more customers indoors, Lightfoot told reporters Tuesday that she does not want to run the risk of having to shut down if a spike in COVID-19 cases should occur.

"I'd rather be slow and steady and continue to be open than throw open the gates to appease a certain segment and then our cases explode, see our percent of positivity explode, and then have to shut it down a third time," Lightfoot said. "I don't want to do that."

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 indoors at one time.

Bars that want to serve alcohol indoors must either serve food or partner with restaurants, which would deliver food to bars. Tables at restaurant and bars cannot seat more than six people and tables must continue to be spaced at six feet apart under the new guidelines. Patrons will be required to still wear masks when not eating or drinking.

The Illinois Restaurant Association lauded the easing of restrictions as a “step in the right direction” but is pushing for Lightfoot to allow more people indoors 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 to expand to 150 for special events such as weddings, communions, bar mitzvahs and other celebrations.

Toia is also petitioning for restaurant employees to be bumped up the list to receive the coronavirus vaccines.

The easing up on restrictions came after the city reached moderate levels in four critical metrics that determine the city’s move to reopen fully, Lightfoot’s office announced. As of Tuesday, Chicago’s positivity rate stood at 2.9 percent and the city was averaging 283 positive coronavirus cases per day.

“We have been trending in the right direction and I congratulate Chicagoans for continuing to do the right thing in helping us contain the spread of the virus,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said in a news release. ”We need to keep it up so we can continue to reopen our city safely and smartly and get back to doing the things we love.”

Lightfoot announced this week that she envisions fans being able to return in-person to sporting events “at some point this season.” Fans were not permitted to attend games at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field last season, but Lightfoot — who is a season-ticket holder for White Sox games — said she hopes to change that this summer.


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