Chicago restaurants push for 50% capacity reopening amid frigid winter weather

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021
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Chicago restaurants are pushing Mayor Lightfoot to let them reopened at 505 capacity as outdoor dining has been hobbled by frigid winter cold and snow.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago restaurants are making a push to get more people through their doors, asking for capacity limits to be boosted to 50% as frigid temperatures and snow persist.

Formetno's restaurant on Randolph Street is fully booked with reservations for Valentine's Day weekend, among the busiest times for restaurants during the winter season. But fully booked for indoor seating still means only 25% capacity by the city's COVID-19 restrictions.

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While that's better than nothing, restaurant owners say it's still a money-losing proposition.

"We've already lost 20% of restaurants in the city," said Phillip Walters of B Hospitality Group, "and unfortunately there's more coming."

Among numerous safety initiatives in place at Formentos are regular COVID-19 tests for employees, and they say they haven't had a single case linked to the restaurant.

Bar Cargo will also be open this weekend, but at only a quarter of their capacity. Their owner said they need more.

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The Chicago Restaurants Coalition pointed out that with lower COVID-19 cases and positivity rates, bowling alleys are now being allowed to open at 40% capacity. They want to increase indoor dining capacity to 50% by the weekend.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she has met with restaurant groups and plans to make an announcement later this week.

"Our restaurants have been extraordinarily hard hit," the mayor said. "Restaurants, bars, our hospitality industry in general. Valentine's weekend is one of the few bright spots over the course of the first quarter."

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