CTA not providing free rides this year
CHICAGO (WLS) -- New Year's Eve celebrations looked a bit different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Chicago, there was no real way to celebrate the year that wasn't - except by reveling in its end.
Like just about everything else, party supply sales are way down. The 50-person celebration kits are still stocked full on the shelves at Doolin's Party Supply.
"Typically these days are our busiest days of the year and we're usually doing over 6,000 balloons. We are going crazy, we don't know which way is up," owner Nicholas Doolin said. "Here is much more of a somber time. We're just looking forward to getting over with 2020."
And with colder temperatures and no indoor dining, people are counting on restaurants heating things up on their patios.
At Greek-inspired restaurant Avli, the bookings are coming in fast, as are the to-go orders, with 60 already being filled for Thursday night.
Many restaurants are pushing their New Year's Eve specials to help bring in some additional support during an already extremely challenging fiscal year.
"Everybody's trying, everybody's trying to be safe, follow the rules and to have our jobs as much as we can," Avli Executive Chef Dimitris Dib said.
And Chicago officials are reminding people to celebrate safely.
The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is even warning that they do have plans to enforce the city's rules on New Year's Eve and into the weekend, with not just citations but the closing of businesses if need be.
In fact, a party with over 150 people was just shut down on Saturday in the 5400-block of North Avenue, so officers will be on the lookout Thursday.
At Avli, they are taking full advantage of their large patio space that seats 80. With some spots still available for New Year's, the chef is ready to serve as many people as he safely can.
"The ownership spent a lot of money to buy heaters to make the patio feel like indoors," Dib said.
Typically on New Year's Eve, the city provides free CTA rides, but Chicago officials said that's not the case this year.
In a statement, a CTA spokesperson said, "As we continue to grapple with the effects of an unprecedented global health crisis, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is encouraging Chicagoans to follow the health guidelines set in place by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and celebrate the New Year responsibly from the comfort and safety of home this year. As such, there will be no free rides offered on CTA buses or trains New Year's Eve or New Year's morning.
"This decision was made with the best interest of our riders and employees in mind, and is in line with what other peer transit agencies are doing this year in response to the pandemic, including those in the cities of Dallas, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Toronto and Vancouver."