New Chicago COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants including indoor dining ban, in effect

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

BySarah Schulte, Evelyn Holmes, and Jesse Kirsch WLS logo
Saturday, October 31, 2020
New Chicago COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants take effect
New COVID-19 restrictions in Chicago are now in effect for restaurants and bars as the area sees a surge in coronavirus cases.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- New COVID-19 restrictions in Chicago are now in effect for restaurants and bars as the area sees a surge in coronavirus cases.

Starting Friday, there will be no indoor service at bars and restaurants in the city. Outdoor service is allowed, but it must end at 11 p.m.

Bars and restaurants can sell alcohol until 11 p.m. and alcohol can be sold at liquor stores and grocery stores until 9 p.m.

I-TEAM: Chicago restaurants want to see data proving they're causing COVID-19 cases surge

Facing another shutdown that could cause permanent closures, restaurant and bar owners are demanding public officials prove they're causing the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Some of the restrictions are not as tough as those first announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The city has relaxed some of those initial restrictions to be in line with the state guidelines, which allows liquor sales and non-essential business operation until 11 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. respectively.

Restaurants and bars that can no longer offer indoor service now have an extra hour of outdoor operations each evening. The extended hours for liquor sales apply to on-site or to-go alcohol sales at bars and restaurants as well.

Some customers are continuing to support the restaurant industry in Chicago despite temperatures dropping to mid-30s. Emily Markle is a patron who is eating outdoors in a new tent at Bub City in River North.

"I am in a full ski suit, but it's not too bad. It's still doable. There's a lot of heaters out here, and we are willing to sit out here and make it work," Markle said.

Other restaurants are also looking to adjust their restaurant arrangement to provide outdoor dining.

"I never thought of November and December as patio weather in Chicago, but we are trying to winterize and create patio experiences that will carry us into the winter," said Jerrod Melman, executive partner at Lettuce Entertain You.

JoJo's Shake Bar is also promoting an outdoor experience while providing foods to help customers stay warm outdoors.

"We have our hot chocolates and our ciders to try to keep you a little warm," said Brooks Boaz, general manager at JoJo's Shake Bar. "But you know we are advertising that it's a pumpkin patch so come ready to sit outside."

RELATED: Are restaurant igloos, greenhouses and tents safer than dining indoors? Doctor weighs in

Chicago infectious disease doctor Dr. Richard Novak weighs in on whether dining in tents, igloos and greenhouses is safer than eating indoors.

Chicago's top public health official Dr. Allison Arwady, while answering questions online, said contact tracing data since August shows 64% of people who tested positive had been to a bar or restaurant in the two weeks before diagnosis.

But is that where they got infected?

"When you have a widespread community outbreak like we're having, unfortunately, that level of precision is just not epidemiologically possible, much as I know people want it to be," said Dr. Arwady.

RELATED: New COVID-19 restrictions from Gov. Pritzker draw pushback from suburban mayors, restaurant owners

Lightfoot said during a press conference Friday morning on Halloween and Election Day safety that most of Chicago's cases are stemming from small gatherings, rather than at bars and restaurants.

RELATED: As COVID-19 cases rise, keep your bubble small, secure and strict

She got emotional when talking about her "last meal" inside.

Chicago Mayor Lori got emotional Friday morning when talking about restaurants' survival during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Restaurants Struggle to Survive

Thousands of jobs will be lost in this second round of closures, members of the restaurant community said Friday, and an estimated 86% of restaurants will not make a profit this ye

South Side restauranteur Josephine Wade-Smith doesn't want to believe it's all been a waste as the dining room of her namesake restaurant sits empty.

"I'm upset but I'll go with what the mayor says and I'll go with what the governor says," Wade-Smith said. "If they think this is what we should do, then I'm going to comply."

Although the 79th Street establishment survived the loss of business revenue and worker layoffs caused by the first ban on indoor dining, they've been dealt another blow after spending thousands of dollars on safety equipment for their dining room.

Fellow Chicago restaurant owner Martin Murch is facing the same dilemma as he pointed to a large tube on his kitchen ceiling, another in the dining room, and a third in an adjoining coffee bar. The tubes are an air filtration system that uses UVC technology to kill bacteria and viruses including, COVID-19.

"It's the same technology being used on airplanes, hospitals, pharmaceutical packaging -- any controlled environment," said Murch, with the Goodeats Restaurant Group.

Each chamber, which costs $3,000 apiece, was just installed two days ago.

Whether it's air systems, masks, sanitizing, or social distancing, Illinois' restaurant industry says it has gone beyond the call of duty to make restaurants safe.

"We've put our all into this business. We've been here over 30 years and when you take your life savings, pensions and other retirement; pulling all our money to try to keep the doors open," said Victor Love, co-owner of Josephine's Southern Cooking.

The Chatham neighborhood eatery will once again have to lay off some of their already limited staff and reduce operating hours as they rely on takeout orders and delivery services to hopefully sustain the business. And they are not alone.

Over at Lem's BBQ, they said they aren't thriving but just surviving.

Even though it's not a dine-in restaurant, it's still feeling the pinch of the pandemic as fewer people eat out. And for those who do, the family-owned business still carries the expense of mandated safety protocols.

"It has taken some of the finance out of it, but we're doing well and practicing social distancing," said William Lemons with Lem's BBQ.

They opted not to go back to in-person dining, even after it was allowed, but increased safety protocols and are seeing more business than ever after offering weekend ice cream specials, like buy one get one free.

"In order for us to serve our customers and do a great job, we gave them different options but the option of serving inside the shop just was not an option," said one of the ice cream shop's co-owners, Nataki Muhammad.

New COVID-19 restrictions in Chicago are now in effect for restaurants and bars as the area sees a surge in coronavirus cases.

While many Chicago restaurants and bars are following protocols, most are wondering how long the indoor dining ban will be in place.

"I think in our minds that we all are bracing for the fact as much as we would like it to be 14 days, we heard that the first time around," Melman said.

The Illinois Restaurant Association held a press conference Friday morning in Chicago's Loop, condemning Pritzker's mitigation efforts.

The Illinois Restaurant Assocation condemned new coronavirus restrictions Friday morning.

"We are being singled out for closure even though restaurants are the most highly regulated, frequently inspected and health-focused industry there is," said Illinois Restaurant Association President & CEO Sam Toia.

RELATED: McHenry Co. judge denies lawsuit seeking restraining order against Illinois indoor dining ban

The Illinois Restaurant Association, who months ago supported Governor Pritzker on COVID-19 restrictions, is now supporting restaurant lawsuits against him.

Toia predicts nearly 20 percent of the state's restaurants will close if the shutdown sticks.

Thousands of jobs will be lost in this second round of closures, members of the restaurant community said Friday, and an estimated 86% of restaurants will not make a profit this year.

"That means we will lose over 120,000 jobs," Toia said.

Murch has already closed two of his four restaurants, and said with all the safety precautions restaurants are taking, they should be part of the solution, not the problem.

"We are not shutting down the airline industry, why are shutting down restaurants," Murch said. "We have an opportunity to actually champion what these restrictions are."