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Ludlow Liquors patio
Photograph: Mackenzie Freemire of Mouthwash

Chicago bars can now apply to open sidewalk patios

The pandemic-era permitting update aims to help bars and taverns affected by the city's recent ban on indoor service.

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Soon you may be able to have a drink just outside your favorite local bar, thanks to a new city program that will allow liquor-only bars, taverns and breweries to apply for sidewalk patio permits. 

Previously, only restaurants and bars that serve food could apply for this COVID-era expanded outdoor dining permit, which allows establishments without existing outdoor dining areas (like a back patio, for instance) to create improvised dining areas on the sidewalk or via street closure in order to stay in business. But after last week's ban on indoor service at bars and taverns—a sudden blow to many local businesses that had just started to reopen—the city has moved to extend access to the sidewalk dining permit to these kinds of bars, provided they partner with a restaurant to supply food options and adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

The new rules might prove to be life-saving for liquor-only establishments across Chicago. This week, Block Club Chicago reported on the Ukrainian Village bar Innertown Pub's struggle to obtain a permit that would allow owners to turn parking lot space into an outdoor beer garden, arguing it was the only way the business could remain afloat. More than 1,000 people signed a petition imploring the city and 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins to grant the tavern the permit they requested. Here's hoping that all the city's beloved watering holes get a helping hand from the updated regulations. 

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