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Photograph: Thomas Hart Shelby Chicago Athletic Association

Chicago restaurants can reopen outdoor seating starting June 3

Outdoor dining is returning to Chicago with new restrictions and safety measures in place.

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We knew that Chicago restaurants and coffee shops would be allowed to reopen outdoor spaces in early June, but today Mayor Lori Lightfoot made it official by announcing that the city would move into Phase 3 of its reopening plan on June 3.

Of course, it won't be business as usual. Restaurants and coffee shops with outdoor seating will be able to operate at limited capacity and with plenty of city-mandated safety guidelines in place, leaving many owners scrambling to reconfigure their spaces, order the personal protective equipment and train staff on new regulations.

Employees and diners will be encouraged to maintain six feet of physical distance, employees will need to wear face coverings at all times, and diners will be asked to mask up when they're not seated. Restaurants will also be required to post signage throughout their establishments that outline these restrictions. It's also worth noting that in Phase 3, groups of six or fewer people will be permitted to dine together—so skip the massive reunion.

Restaurants that don't already have permits for outdoor dining are encouraged to work with their local officials and neighboring businesses to obtain proper paperwork, though Mayor Lightfoot did mention a "fast-track" permit available through the Department of Special Events. We can also expect to hear more soon about street and sidewalk closures that would allow outdoor areas to expand into roadways temporarily.

"Under no circumstance should our move to Phase 3 be confused with this crisis being over, because it's not," Mayor Lightfoot reminded viewers during today's press conference. While the return of patio season is a sight for sore eyes, Chicagoans will have to be more vigilant than ever before about masking up, washing their hands and maintaining distance to keep restaurant workers and themselves safe during this transition.

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