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Noyane, rooftop, outdoor
Photograph: Neil Burger Noyane

Chicago restaurants could reopen outdoor seating in early June—but bars will have to wait

Mayor Lightfoot offers some clarity on how Phase 3 will affect the hospitality industry.

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After some back and forth this week on when Chicago restaurants and bars can reopen, Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered some clarity today. In her press conference this afternoon, Mayor Lightfoot said that Chicago restaurants and coffee shops should be able to reopen outdoor seating in early June—but only if the city can continue reducing its number of new cases. Left off the reopening docket for now are Chicago's many bars.

Though Mayor Lightfoot wouldn't provide an exact date for Chicago to move into Phase 3 of its reopening plan, she said that she's hopeful it could happen in early June rather than later in the month. "I don't think it's mid-June. I think it's early June," Lightfoot said. "Early June means to me not the 10th—something sooner than that, and hopefully in the single digits of June."

Mayor Lightfoot added that next week, she'll provide detailed industry-specific guidelines for all of the businesses that can reopen in Phase 3, which will presumably include more information on how Chicago restaurants can keep their staff and customers safe while offering outdoor seating.

Though she wouldn't provide much detail about why bars were excluded from the list of businesses allowed to reopen in Phase 3, they're grouped together with high-capacity sectors like schools, theaters, playgrounds and stadiums. Still, Mayor Lightfoot was able to offer some insight into the discussions happening behind the scenes, particularly around when indoor dining could resume.

"I just think we've got to open up the opportunity for indoor dining with, again, some very tight controls because these businesses are starving, and many of them will not survive unless we throw them a lifeline," she said. "And I don't think it's enough to just say 'outdoor dining.' It's Chicago, it's going to rain—and then what?"

She added that she's having "robust discussions" with officials about capacity limitations that could be put on indoor dining rooms to make it a feasible business model for struggling restaurants.

Chicagoans can expect to wait at least another week or two before outdoor dining is an option, but next week, we'll get a clearer picture of what that could look like for restaurants.

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