Just two weeks after officials bumped Chicago's indoor dining capacity to 40 percent, the city has announced that restaurants and bars may now seat customers indoors at 50 percent capacity or 50 people per room (whichever is fewer), effective immediately. While the change is unlikely to benefit small restaurants, those with multiple rooms and should be able to seat additional customers under the loosened restrictions.
Additionally, the city will now allow restaurants and bars to remain open until 1am—formerly, patrons were required to be cleared from businesses with a Tavern or Consumption on Premises-Incidental Activity license by 11am. Liquor stores, grocery stores and other businesses that sell packaged goods won't have to stop alcohol sales until 11pm each night, an extension of the 9pm cut-off that's been in place for much of the past year.
The loosening of restrictions come as Chicago hits 2.9 percent test positivity over the past seven days, which is the lowest positivity rate the city has seen since the early days of the pandemic. With vaccine availability expected to increase throughout the coming month and a mass vaccination site opening at the United Center, there seems to be a sense of optimism among city officials. Of course, COVID-19 hasn't disappeared—if you're heading out to restaurants, bars or liquor stores, it's still important to wear a mask and keep your distance from others.
"I am thrilled that we have reached 50 percent capacity," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. "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."
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