Our downtown and neighborhood businesses are central to what makes our city great. These modified reopening guidelines will be a lifeline for thousands of businesses, but we must continue to follow critical health and safety guidelines while we move towards a reopened economy that works for our businesses and workers.
I introduced an ordinance last month that would have extended hours of operation for bars and restaurants from 11:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m., and would increase indoor capacity limits, allowing Chicago's hospitality industry much-needed relief during this very challenging time.
The hospitality industry alone employs nearly 100,000 Chicagoans, and most of these businesses - whether downtown or in the neighborhoods - are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and closure.
These modifications will benefit business owners and their employees across all 50 wards of Chicago: offering these neighborhood bars and restaurants two additional hours to flip an additional table service, and to allow the liquor sales needed to help establishments simply break even again.
Restaurant and bar operators have told me that ending liquor sales at 11 p.m. is not profitable - they are losing money. By simply adding just two hours of liquor service (until 1:00 a.m.), these operators could actually turn a modest profit. Giving this industry just 120 minutes of additional liquor service can be the difference between survival and bankruptcy.
I am pleased that the City has proactively modified these guidelines and my ordinance is no longer required. Due to our continued improvement on COVID-19 health metrics, Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health have announced that the following changes will become effective Thursday, October 1st, at 5:00 am:
Increased Indoor Capacity: Restaurants, health and fitness centers, personal services, non-essential retail and all other establishments that have been limited to 25% indoor capacity will now be able to increase their maximum indoor capacity to 40%. The limit of 50 total customers within one room or space at restaurants, venues and other establishments will remain in place, as will the limit of no more than six people per table.
Reopening of Bars: Breweries, taverns, bars and other establishments that serve alcohol without a food license may reopen with indoor seating, at 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer. Service remains limited to no more than two hours per party, and customers must be seated when eating, drinking or ordering – patrons cannot walk up to the bar to order.
Extended Hours for Bars and Restaurants: Bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol will now be able to sell alcohol for on-site or off-site consumption until 1:00 am and may remain open until 1:30 am. Liquor stores, grocery stores and other establishments that sell alcohol to-go through a Packaged Goods license must continue to cease alcohol sales at 9:00 pm.
Increased Group Size: Maximum group size for health and fitness classes and after-school programming will increase from 10 to 15 people.
Expanded Personal Services: Facials, shaves and other personal services that require the removal of face coverings will be allowed.
While enough progress has been made to ease certain restrictions, Chicago remains in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and calls on all businesses and customers to continue following the phase four guidelines.
These changes build on Chicago’s status as one of the most open large cities in America and are possible due to continued improvement on crucial COVID health metrics, including a declining number of new daily cases, a test positivity rate now below 5% and the lowest rates of hospitalization and death in months.
Chicago is now seeing around 300 new COVID cases per day whereas in late August the city was over 350 cases per day and rising. Test positivity (the percentage of COVID tests with a positive result) has fallen to 4.5% and severe outcomes have also improved, with hospitalizations from COVID lower than they’ve been since March and deaths at an average of 2-3 per day, when they were around 50 per day at the peak of the pandemic.
In order to continue the significant progress, the following additional guidelines will also come into effect on Thursday, October 1st:
- When dining out at a food service establishment or bar, customers must always wear face coverings while seated, except when actively eating or drinking. This protects employees that may interact closely with patrons.
- Patrons at indoor bars, taverns and breweries must order from their seats – they cannot walk up to the bar to order.
- Bars, taverns and breweries that are reopening indoors must partner with a food establishment so that food is available to patrons at all times (e.g., making menus available and allowing delivery, allowing patrons to order from third-party delivery services).
- When taking reservations and seating walk-in customers, restaurants and bars should retain an email and/or phone number for possible contact tracing.
- Personal services that require the removal of face coverings are recommended to be kept under 15 minutes, and the employee conducting the service must always wear a face covering.
- All places of business should provide hand sanitizer for patrons and employees to use upon entry.
These new health and safety regulations are in addition to existing guidelines, including the requirement for diners to continue wearing face coverings when interacting with staff and for residential property managers to limit guest entry to five additional people for single-member households such that total indoor gatherings and parties do not exceed six people. BACP will continue enforcement of these guidelines.
To prepare all business owners for the new phase four guidelines and for the cold weather regulations, the City of Chicago will be hosting a series of webinars this week. To register and learn more, visit chicago.gov/businesseducation.
These restrictions, as part of Phase IV guidelines, are in effect until further notice. Continue checking the City of Chicago’s COVID-19 website for the most up-to-date information.
President Pro Tempore
Alderman, 42nd Ward