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7 things you need to know about Chicago’s new guidelines for restaurants and bars

Brush up on the city's latest reopening guidelines before you make a reservation.

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Written by
Morgan Olsen
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It's a big day for Chicago's hospitality community. As of Thursday, October 1, restaurants can increase indoor capacity from 25 to 40 percent, and bars can reopen at 25 percent capacity. It's all part of the city's latest reopening guidelines, which were announced earlier this week.

Aside from possibly dining alongside more people, what can folks expect when they go out to eat? Well, city officials have some new guidelines for you to follow, too. Take a look at what's expected of restaurants, bars and their patrons starting today, Thursday, October 1:

1. The total number of diners per room is still limited to 50 people.

Even though capacity percentages are being boosted across the board, restaurants and bars must still limit their patronage to 50 people or fewer per room. Small- and medium-sized establishments will see the biggest change in service, while larger restaurants will be beholden to the old rules. Here's another way of thinking about it: A 100-seat dining room can now seat 40 people, but a 200-seat dining room is still limited to 50 guests.

2. Diners must wear a mask at all times unless actively eating or drinking.

This one's a biggie: "When dining out at a food service establishment or bar, customers must wear face coverings while seated at all times (including when interacting with staff), except when actively eating or drinking," read the new guidelines. It's a slight step up from Illinois' mandate last month that said diners must wear a mask when speaking with servers. Plan to keep your face covering on until your order arrives—and even then, it should be handy for interacting with staff and after your food has been cleared away.

3. Expect to give up your digits and email address at the door.

Restaurants and bars are being asked to collect an email address and/or phone number for all patrons, whether they made a reservation or not. Why? It will help with possible contact tracing in case a member of the staff or another diner tests positive for COVID-19.

4. Last call is at 1am.

Restaurants and bars can now serve alcohol until 1am and remain open until 1:30am. (Previously, they were asked to close up shop by midnight.) Interestingly enough, the same rule doesn't apply to liquor and grocery stores, both of which must still cut off booze sales at 9pm every night.

5. Keep your guest list to six people max.

No, the manager can't push together two tables to accommodate your birthday party. Don't even ask. Chicago officials are holding fast on the maximum party size and table occupancy, which will remain at six people for the foreseeable future.

6. Hand sanitizer should be readily available at the entrance.

Most local businesses have already equipped their entrances and cash registers with hand sanitizer, but the city is making it official in its latest guidelines: "All places of business should provide hand sanitizer for patrons and employees to use upon entry."

7. Heading to the bar? Take a seat.

Now that bars, taverns and breweries can reopen at 25 percent capacity indoors (or 50 people, whichever is fewer), there are a few new rules that guests need to observe. Your stay will be limited to two hours; you must stay seated when eating, drinking and ordering; and you can't walk up to the bar to place your order. For the love of Malört, follow the rules and don't make your bartender babysit you in addition to doing their job.

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