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elske patio
Photograph: Carolina Mariana Rodríguez

Chicago, don’t get your hopes up about patio dining on May 29

Mayor Lightfoot is still solidifying plans to reopen restaurants in Chicago.

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Yesterday, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that Illinois restaurants would have the ability to reopen their patios with limited capacity when Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan begins on May 29. But he also noted that "local governments have every right to establish stricter guidance to local businesses or for local recreation."

When asked during a press conference about reopening Chicago's restaurants in some capacity, Mayor Lori Lightfoot made it clear that the city is on a different timeline. "I don't think we're going to be ready by May 29, but my hope is that soon in June that we will be ready," she said. Lightfoot added that she has been drafting policies that could be put in place to allow restaurants to reopen, but made it clear that Chicago and its businesses will be subject to the city's reopening plan, not the state's. "The City of Chicago has its own responsibilities and obligations to craft public health policies that are specific to the city of Chicago," Lightfoot explained.

The mayor stated that the city is exploring ways to close streets and open up outdoor spaces that could be used by restaurants, saying that she wants to work with aldermen in neighborhoods throughout the city to identify areas that make sense. But Lightfoot also noted that asking restaurants to serve customers exclusively outdoor likely isn't economically feasible. "No restaurant I know of is going to be able to survive dependent upon what the weather is going to be like on a particular day in Chicago," Lightfoot explained. "There also needs the ability to be inside as well, or I don't think the numbers work." 

Dr. Allison Arwady elaborated on the city's work to craft guidelines for restaurants that reduce risk for employees and customers, including the use of face coverings and making sure that patrons aren't sharing the same ketchup bottles. "We will not be able to completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 as long as we have COVID-19 in Chicago, but our goal is to minimize that," Arwady said.

While Chicago's reopening timeline may continue to lag behind the state's, Mayor Lightfoot's rationale is that more time is needed to establish guidelines that keep employees and patrons safe. "The baseline for all businesses to open back up is two things," Lightfoot stated. "What are you doing to protect your employees and what are you doing to protect members of the public?"

You can still look forward to enjoying a meal or a beer on a restaurant patio in Chicago at some point this summer, you'll just have to wait a little bit longer than much of the rest of Illinois.

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