Chicago shared streets dining program expands to Wells, Clark in River North; Gold Coast closures extend to 7 days a week

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's shared streets dining program is expanding again this weekend, this time to River North.

Breiden Reilly, alderman to the 42nd Ward, said the city will allow restaurants to offer outdoor seating on portions of Clark and Wells streets in River North, starting Friday.

Wells will be closed between Superior and Huron, and Clark will be closed between Grand and Kinzie.

Additionally, because of the weekend success of Gold Coast restaurants near Rush and Bellevue, the outdoor dining program there will extend to seven days a week, starting Friday.

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Some eateries east of Lakeshore Drive will also soon be able to reopen.

Diners enjoyed an earlier expansion on the city's Lower West Side last month.

Locked between police barriers on a short stretch of south Oakley Avenue, checked cloths drape the tables, and waiters doted on their diners in the middle of the street.

"I've been waiting for this for years," Paddy O'Reilly said. "I'm glad we're here. ... It's good to be out."

Other customers enjoyed the al fresco dining, too.

"It's more spacious, more air. People can breathe better," Khirsten Coleman said.

While diners enjoyed it, some businesses had mixed reviews.

"Some businesses like it, some do not -- it just depends on their business model," said 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin. "We're going to continue to reevaluate this to make it the best for all the businesses here along Taylor Street."

In The Heart of Chicago, street dining is a means for survival.

"If they would take this away from us, it would be very difficult with 25% inside. ... People are still not that comfortable eating on the inside," said Paula Pieri, owner of Bacchanalia restaurant.

Luciano Silvestri, owner of Bruna's, said it still might not be enough.

"I don't expect to make any money. I expect to pay all my employees and all my bills. I don't know if I can do it," he said. "It helps me a lot. I am not a young man. I am supposed to be retired, but I love what I do, so to see business back, it gives me a lot of energy. I'm young again."

The program started on the North Side in mid-June with a couple streets in Lakeview. Two weeks ago it was expanded to five more neighborhoods across the city.

All outdoor dining must continue to follow all state public health guidelines, including social distancing, mask wearing and other guidelines.
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