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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

When will indoor dining resume in Chicago?

Here's the long and the short of it.

By
Morgan Olsen
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UPDATE: This story was originally published on November 19, 2020, but we'll continue to update it with the latest reopening information from state officials.

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 since 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 suppress 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 again? The short answer is that we still have a ways to go. As of Monday, January 18, the city is in Tier 2 of the Illinois Resurgence Mitigation Plan, which went into effect on November 20, 2020 (not to be confused with the Reopening Chicago plan, which is overridden by state regulations). On Friday, January 15, Gov. J.B. Pritzker offered further clarification on when indoor dining will be permitted in regions across Illinois and what it will look like when it resumes. Pritzker advised that once a region moves back to Tier 1, indoor dining can resume at 25 percent capacity (or 25 people per room, whichever is less).

Thanks to an adjustment to the metrics that the Illinois Department of Public Health has used up to this point (specifically, the requirement for a certain amount of staffed hospital bed availability), several regions in Illinois have recently moved back to Phase 1 mitigations and Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a press conference on Thursday, January 14 that she hopes to push the conversation with Pritzker. "I am very, very focused on getting our restaurants reopened," she said. "If we look at the various criteria that the state has set, we are meeting most if not all of those. So that’s a conversation that I will have with the governor."

While the city is making progress, it's still too soon to say exactly when indoor dining might resume in Chicago. Here's why: Once a region enters Tier 2, it must maintain a positivity rate average less than or equal to 6.5 percent over a three-day period to "return to Phase 4 mitigations under the Restore Illinois Plan," according to the state. As of January 21, Region 11 (home to Chicago) had a daily test positivity rate of 9.4 percent.

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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