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Photograph: Neil Burger

When will indoor dining in Chicago be allowed again?

Here's the long and the short of it.

Morgan Olsen

Chicago restaurants and bars have been on a rollercoaster ride since mid-March: They've shut down, reopened, installed plexiglass barriers, set up outdoor igloos and turned to takeout. And as of October 30, they've been ordered to keep their doors closed to dine-in guests. For now, restaurants and bars must stick to outdoor dining, carryout and delivery in an effort to help the city curve its COVID case count.

RECOMMENDED: Restaurants react to Chicago's indoor dining ban

So when will Chicago restaurants be allowed to reopen for indoor dining once again? The short answer is that we have a ways to go, which makes sense when you look at the city and state's current metrics. As you might imagine, the state has very clear guidelines established in its Mitigation Plan, which is designed to ease the spread of COVID-19 and keep hospitals from becoming overrun with new cases. Right now, we're entering Tier 3 of that plan, which goes into effect on Friday, November 20.

As a quick refresher, under Tier 3, bars and restaurants cannot offer indoor service and must close by 11pm every night. (There are a host of other rules in place, which you can read about on the state's coronavirus response website.) But back to the question at hand: When can indoor dining resume? The Illinois Department of Public Health is constantly watching positivity rates and hospital capacity metrics for all of the state's regions. Officials are using a 14-day monitoring period to determine if and when mitigations can be relaxed or enhanced. In order to move back to Tier 2, a region must:

  • Maintain less than 12 percent test positivity rate for three consecutive days.
  • Have greater than 20 percent available intensive care unite and hospital bed availability.
  • Show declining COVID-19 hospitalizations in seven of the past 10 days.

A quick look at Chicago, which sits in Region 11, shows that we still have a long way to go until we slide back into Tier 2. Our daily positivity rate is currently sitting at 15.4 percent and we've seen eight straight days of hospital admission increases. But that's really just the half of it, because indoor dining and drinking are not currently scheduled to resume in Tier 2 Resurgence Mitigations either. For the time being, it appears that indoor dining won't resume in any capacity until Chicago reenters Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan and can ditch its mitigation efforts.

It bears repeating that without federal aid, Chicago restaurants and bars are in dire need of support. You can still brave the cold to dine outdoors, but the safest way to show your love is through takeout and delivery. Tip generously, wear a mask, be kind to staff and order direct whenever possible—your favorite restaurant needs it to survive this winter.  

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