Chicago restaurant owners call to expand indoor dining to 50% capacity by Thursday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Restaurants Coalition called Monday for an expansion of indoor dining to 50 percent capacity by Thursday.

Warm weather over the weekend brought out the patrons and underlined Chicago restauranteurs desire to accelerate to normal.

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"This past weekend, we were open and the weather was a little bit better for a couple days, and every single night we had to turn people away," said Mary Kay Tuzi, owner, Twin Anchors Ribs. "I'm just watching dollars walk back out my door."

Tuzi and fellow Chicago Restaurants Coalition members are calling for a dramatic relaxation of the rules governing indoor dining during the pandemic - especially given the city test positivity rates now sit below 3% and are trending down.

"Restaurants can't be uniquely punished by City Hall, by City Hall wanting to include the daily number of COVID cases, ICU hospital beds and emergency room visits relating to COVID. Let's all agree we're focused on the positivity rate - and this should apply to all commercial businesses that serve the public - and restaurants can't be burdened uniquely by including a myriad of other COVID-19 metrics," said Roger Romanelli, executive director, Chicago Restaurants Coalition.

"We use the common phrase now that we're all in the same boat. Well, some are in a yacht, some are in a boat, some are in a canoe. Unfortunately, the African American community as a whole, typically, is in a canoe," said Anthony Waller, CEO, Out of the Box Catering. "I'm not making light of all of it, but that is the true reality. When you look at people of color, my brown friends and my Latino friends, the fact is, when you look at the vaccination rate that we're able to achieve - we're still at the bottom of the totem pole."

In Greektown, proprietors are banding together for a restaurant week celebrating the 200th anniversary of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. Artopolis has seen revenues drop 65% from a year ago in a storm of changing regulations.

"We do see a correlation between the lifting of the restrictions and how much down we are," said George Reveliotis, partner, Artopolis.

With the advent of new vaccines, Reveliotis said safety remains the number one priority - but the window to business survival depends on quick action from City Hall.

"Taking into consideration all the new safeguards and new habits that people have formed," Reveliotis explained. "So people are more conscientious now of germs and bacteria, so now, perhaps we are going to be spreading out our tables a little further away."

Chicago expanded indoor dining to 40% capacity for restaurants 13 days ago and said it would reassess after two weeks, which would be Tuesday.

The city said all metrics - including test positivity, new cases, emergency room visits and ICU beds - have to be in the moderate risk category for two weeks.
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