Many Chicago hotels may choose to remain closed, calling for capacity increases in Phase 4

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the city and state have started to reopen for business, downtown hotels have reported seeing a small, but definite uptick in the number of people seeking lodging.

And while that's good news, it's not enough

"We were were supposed to come here for three days in May, but obviously had to cancel that, so decided to make up for it," said Kyle and Callan Conkel.

"We are the hardest hit industry, we're the first hit industry and we're going to be one of the last ones to recover," said Michael Jacobson, with the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association.

Jacobson said, Chicago hotels have been hit harder than after 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined. And that is because, a large number of them, especially downtown remain completely closed

"Nearly 50 percent of their total revenue is dependent on group travel and that means meetings, events," Jacobson said.

The state's hotel association, in conjunction with London House Monday set up one of their meeting rooms to show what is possible: plexiglass barriers at check-in, hand sanitizer stations, fewer tables, fewer seats per table, bottled water, disposable silverware.

They said it only works if the state modifies its phase four requirement limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people.

They are calling on the governor to increase that to 50 percent of capacity. It would allow hotels, like London House which is currently operating with only 25 percent of its employees to bring more of them back.

"We can staff the kitchen. We can staff the banquet facility. So it has a big impact and returning more people to work and just getting our operation more to normal," said Juan Leyva, general manager of the London House Hotel.

Without a change in the phase four many of the larger hotels around the city may choose to remain closed for some time to come.
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