On Monday, September 28th it was announced that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be easing restrictions on indoor spaces, allowing bars and restaurants to be at 40% capacity.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “Chicago bars that don’t serve food will be allowed to reopen for indoor service starting Thursday, and bars and restaurants will be allowed to serve alcohol until 1 a.m.”
For many businesses, this is a sigh of relief.
Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association says “The next few months will be critical for Chicago’s hospitality industry as we work to survive a once-in-a-lifetime crisis. Increased capacity and longer hours will mean more jobs, greater opportunity for revenue, and a path towards stability for our restaurants. We are committed to continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our workers and patrons as we take this essential next step in our economic recovery.”
Janet Isabelli, Principal at Isabelli Partners works heavily with the restaurant industry, and has been involved in helping her clients as best as possible during COVID. “The restaurant industry has faced unimaginable devastation as a result of COVID-19. It has, as always will be, one of the most highly regulated industries when it comes to health and safety, and operators are fully equipped for this increased occupancy. It’s a step in the right direction, but margins remain razor thin, and winter’s onset will bring further disadvantage to those without enclosed outdoor spaces, nor the extra resources to add them. Regulatory and financial relief at the city, state and federal levels remain critical for restaurants’ long-term survival.”
Others like Ken Monro of Chicago Scene have expressed frustration with the previous restrictions and thinks the City can do even better. “Instead of a maximum capacity of 50 people, capacity should be based on space, per area of occupation. Businesses are dying, and who knows how many more will make it through the year.”
The challenge is managing the predictions of an increase in cases through winter and customer expectations. Cleanliness efforts have been well established in many locations, but will customers come in?
As WBEZ has reported, the City is encouraging contract tracing from restaurants to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
The turbulent consequences of Coronavirus brings a challenging climate to Chicago’s widely recognized hospitality scene, but if there’s anything Chicagoans are, it’s tough and resilient.