New Chicago COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants include indoor dining ban; Illinois Restaurant Association explores legal action

Indoor dining banned in Chicago and all bars & restaurants must close by 11 p.m. starting Friday

ByMichelle Gallardo, Cate Cauguiran, Eric Horng, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team via WLS logo
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
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Hours after Gov. JB Pritzker added restrictions to Chicago bars and restaurants, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pushed back on the new rules.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A citywide ban on indoor dining is among the new COVID-19 mitigation restrictions that will be imposed on Chicago starting Friday.

Hours after Gov. JB Pritzker added restrictions to Chicago bars and restaurants, Mayor Lori Lightfoot pushed back on the new rules, suggesting there's been a lack of communication between the two offices.

"We're going to continue our engagement with the governor and his team, but it's not looking good, and if we can't convince him that some other metrics should apply, then the shutdown unfortunately is going to take effect starting Friday by state order," Mayor Lightfoot said on PBS.

The new measures last a minimum of 14 days. They include the same restrictions on indoor bar and restaurant service that take effect in suburban Cook County on Wednesday.

A full list of the new COVID-19 mitigation measures is included at the bottom of this article.

Coronavirus is spreading in Chicago at the same rate as it was last March, officials say, but it's just one troubling trend prompting the rollback.

RELATED: Illinois reports 4,000 new COVID-19 cases, 46 deaths

Gov. JB Pritzker said the mitigations were triggered in Chicago by seven straight days of hospital admission increases and eight consecutive days of rising test positivity. In Chicago, the number of non-ICU patients is up 72% since late September and the number of those in ICU is up 56% since October 1.

"The situation here in all of Cook County, city and suburbs alike, is bad and it's getting worse," Gov. Pritzker said.

Chicago's top public health official seemed to anticipate the move before the governor's announcement.

"If the governor makes this decision, we will obviously support it," Dr. Allison Arwady said earlier on Tuesday. "The numbers that we have seen here give me no reason to think that this is not imminent."

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded to the governor's action in a written statement: "Communication is the key to navigating through this crisis. We will continue our efforts to engage with the Governor and his team to better understand their metrics so that we can forge targeted solutions to address the public health challenges here in Chicago and across the state. The Governor and I are aligned that we need residents to mask-up and follow the City and State's health guidance in order to reverse these recent troubling trends, but we must remain in lockstep when it comes to the rollout of new restrictions. Even amid the pandemic, I urge residents to continue to find ways to support our small businesses and their local communities."

In response to Lightfoot, a spokesperson for Gov. Pritzker said: "Unfortunately, the virus doesn't make exceptions, and it would be ill-advised to make exceptions to the rules we put in place as the best mitigations to stop the spread. As the CDC has noted, bars and restaurants are major places of transmission risk. We'll continue to provide support to businesses that are hard hit through our $630 million in grants."

The Illinois Dept. of Public Health said it will continue to track metrics in Chicago and if the numbers come down, the restrictions can be eased.

WATCH: Chicago bar, restaurant owners react to new restrictions

The Illinois Restaurant Association said they are now exploring all possible legal remedies.

"This could definitely be the death blow to the hospitality industry as we know it here in in the city of Chicago," said Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Starting Friday, restaurants and bars in Chicago will once again shut down indoor dining. Outside services will have limited hours and reservations will be required for each party.

"It hurts. My first thought was, 'Here we go again,'" said Jeff Lawler, owner of Geja's Café in Lincoln Park. "Will this be a two week shutdown, will this be a two month shutdown what's it going to be? No one knows. (6)

City restaurant and bar owners had been bracing for the announcement, saying there will be tough decisions ahead, including more layoffs.

"Without the stimulus package approved, without PPP, without unemployment benefits, it would be difficult-to-impossible for the restaurants, for the employees to survive to pay their rent," said Relu Stan, owner of Fulton Market Kitchen.

Some owners said the decision to bring back old restrictions is not an easy one, but one they understand.

"We have to be able to embrace the fact that this is something we have to do," said Dave Dahl, co-owner of Lo-Rez Brewery and Taproom. "Hopefully we can learn from this and maybe have a better winter, maybe a better spring."

In addition to exploring legal options, the Illinois Restaurant Association said it is also fiercely advocating for government financial relief to help business in the days to come.

Additional restrictions on Lake and McHenry counties are expected to be announced on Wednesday. If that happens, the entire Chicagoland area will be operating under stricter COVID-19 mitigation restrictions.

New COVID-19 mitigations for Chicago and suburban Cook County


-No indoor service

-All outside bar service closes at 11:00 p.m.

-All bar patrons should be seated at tables outside

-No ordering, seating, or congregating at bar (bar stools should be removed)

-Tables should be 6 feet apart

-No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting

-No dancing or standing indoors

-Reservations required for each party

-No seating of multiple parties at one table


-No indoor dining or bar service

-All outdoor dining closes at 11:00 p.m.

-Outside dining tables should be 6 feet apart

-No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting

-Reservations required for each party

-No seating of multiple parties at one table

Meetings, Social Events, Gatherings

-Limit to lesser of 25 guests or 25 percent of overall room capacity

-No party buses

-Gaming and Casinos close at 11:00 p.m., are limited to 25 percent capacity, and follow mitigations for bars and restaurants, if applicable