Phase 4 in Chicago: Restaurants, bars prepare for indoor service, but some hold back

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On the eve of reopening, one of the city's most iconic drinking dens is ready to reemerge, while other restaurants have decided to hang back.

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The Green Mill, first opened in 1907, is ready to reopen after its longest shutdown in a storied history.

"This might be the only place left in Chicago that survived two pandemics 100 years apart," said Dave Jemilo, owner.

At just 25% capacity it won't be as packed as bartenders are used to, and the nights won't be as long.

"We have to close at 11, which is strange because usually we're open 'til 4 in the morning," Jemilo said.

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But a band will still play from a safe distance, customers will sit at every other booth and bar stool, and the long-time owner will now play safety enforcer.

"Everyone gotta wear the face masks," said Jemilo. "Some guy gets up to go to the bathroom, 'Put your face mask back on!'"

Where patio seating has already been running smoothly in places like the West Loop, weekend dining is about to spread into the street. Lanes will be shut down to traffic offering more space outside and the chance to pull in more money.

"It's going to be able to make the place feel like a vibe again, which is really important when it's 25% capacity, and it's going to allow us to be able to serve more people," said Claire McDonal, manager at Cruz Blanca/Lena Brava.

Inside Cruz Blanca bar service still won't be an option, but dining will be.

However, not every restaurant feels like opening for indoor, or even in-person, service is the right move even if it is legal.

"We don't feel like it's the safe thing to do," said Chef Mike Simmons, owner of Café Marie Jeanne in Humboldt Park.

Simmons is sticking to carry-out. Indoor dining during a pandemic isn't something he's at all interested in.

"In order to bring people back and expose them to this, we're saying, 'We want to put money ahead of people,'" he said. "That's never really been our thing."
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