Reopening Illinois: IL moves into Phase 4 as gyms, movie theaters reopen, indoor dining resumes; casinos, video gaming return next week

Friday, June 26, 2020
Chicago moves into Phase 4, opening indoor dining, gyms, theaters and more
Phase 4 of reopening in Chicago and Illinois starts Friday, and that includes gyms and indoor dining.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois and Chicago transitioned into Phase 4 of Gov. JB Pritzker's reopening plans Friday, and that includes lifted restrictions at gyms and indoor dining.

Casinos and video gaming will return next week.

WATCH: Here's what you need to know about Phase 4 in Illinois

Illinois moves into Phase 4 of reopening June 26. What does that mean?

Indoor dining capacity can only be 25 percent, with a maximum of 50 people per room.

The return of indoor dining meant people could sit inside on a rainy Friday night, and is a sign to struggling business owners that the worst may be over.

At Norman's Bistro in Kenwood, the southern and Creole favorites are served with a side of resilience and just seem to taste better in Phase 4.

"Everybody was so diligent in doing what they needed to do for this day to happen," said Kirkland Townsend, customer.

There are temperature checks at the door, and tables are six feet apart. The bar area is open again, and the restaurant is once again a neighborhood hangout.

"It gives our old faithful clients a chance to come back and be social with us," said owner Norman Bolden.

And it means nearly the entire staff can soon be rehired.

"Customers and friends have come. When they come, they say they're excited to be back," Bolden said. "They're so happy we survived."

The general manager of Steak 48 said he's glad he doesn't need to rely on outdoor seating, since weather in the city can be questionable.

"This allows everyone to come back inside and start generating some income," David Anderson said.

With the new indoor seating allowances, Anderson believes he can bring back 95 percent of his staff.

At Carnivale in the Fulton River District, tables are moved apart and a long list of safety precautions at the bar and inside the kitchen.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure that it's a safe environment for our guests but also for our staff as well," General Manager Ozzie Godoy said.

Tables have been spaced out in the large dining room to keep diners apart, sanitizing stations are in place, staff will be wearing masks and markers are on the floor in front of the bar to show people where they can stand.

Not everyone is quite so enthusiastic. Indoor dining during a pandemic isn't something Chef Mike Simmons with Cafe Marie Jean in Humboldt Park is at all interested in.

"In order to bring people back and expose them to this, we're saying, 'We want to put money ahead of people,'" he said. "That's never really been our thing."

At The Rink in Chatham, skaters gathered to exercise and escape COVID-19 headlines.

"Come in here, we just release all that and leave it on the floor," said Doris Ann Davis.

Fitness fanatics returned to the gym, diners to the tables, and skaters to the roller rink Friday as Chicago moved into Phase 4 of reopening.

Amanda Clower took the day off from work to be in her skates for the very first session, now that roller rinks can reopen at limited capacity.

"We've all missed each other so much," she said.

Friends won't be getting too close for a reunion just yet. The rink is taking everyone's temperature at the door, asking guests to maintain social distance, and requiring everyone to keep their face masks on at all times.

But everyone had no problem following the rules, because they wanted to skate.

At River North Gym inside Merchandise Mart, patrons were already inside working out by reservation only early Friday morning.

The gym pivoted to virtual and outdoor classes during the pandemic but now they are ready to welcome their patrons back.

People will get their temperatures checked at the door, employees will be wiping down gym equipment and people will have to work out with their masks on and use hand sanitizer. Guests are also given their own sanitizer bottle to wipe down equipment.

"We sanitize people's feet when they come in, their hands; we take temperature checks. We call it 'social fitnessing,'" River North Gym Owner Bernie LeCocq said. "It's been over 100 days; we're super excited to be reopening. We worked really hard on our procedures and processes to keep the gym as safe as possible so we're ready for people to come back."

LeCocq also said some equipment is spaced as much as 10 feet apart.

"There's areas where people are huffing and puffing and breathing more, so we want to create a little more space," he said.

Kevin Bell said working out with his mask on was tricky at first, but he's on board with any rules that get him back in the gym after exercising at home for months.

"Weightlifting is a whole different monster," he said.

The time away is part of why LeCocq said his team is already working hard.

"This is a time when people can get injured and aren't quite sure how to, you know, work back into their program so our trainers are actually pretty busy," he said.

The reopening comes more than three months after COVID-19 grabbed hold of the state.

"It was really scary for a while but we always have the faith and the strength within our staff and the support to really get through it," Godoy said.

While many people are still apprehensive about venturing into this new phase, Pam McKinney is embracing it, eating at the Palace Grill as soon as it was allowed.

"I eat out, so I'm a person who likes to eat out, and so this has been really traumatic, not being able to eat indoors," she said. "I'm not an outdoor person. I don't eat outdoors. I like being inside."

In Rosemont's Parkway Bank Park, Hofbrauhaus can normally hold up to about 1,000 people inside. With social distancing, every other table is closed, but they can still hold enough customers to stay in business.

"It's our livelihood. Now our employees can start to provide for their families," said Bradley Cool, the restaurant's general manager.

Movie theaters are also welcoming customers back for the first time in months, with some changes.

At Classic Cinemas, there are no more self-serve concessions, and seating concessions keep everyone socially distant.

"We're just so excited to be doing the business we do which is show movies," said Chris Johnson, CEO of Classic Cinemas.

With no new studio releases right now, they are showing older classics and some recent releases. But some customers anxious for entertainment don't mind.

"It's nice to have some routine, to be able to go to movies. It's great," said Elmhurst resident Tom Schimel.

WATCH: Parks, playgrounds reopen in suburban Aurora

After months of being closed, the recreational and play areas at Phillips Park in Aurora are now open as part of Illinois' Phase 4 reopening plan.

Some suburban parks, playgrounds and pools also reopened Friday morning.

After months of being closed, the recreational and play areas at Phillips Park in Aurora are now open as part of Illinois' Phase 4 reopening plan.

"Phillips Park is one of our biggest parks," said Gio Santana, superintendent of parks in Aurora. "It's our legacy park, so here at the park we're going to be opening our playgrounds, we have three playground locations, the main pavilion playground, the dog park, tennis courts, and another playground on Mastodon Island."

City staff in Aurora will regularly disinfect equipment throughout the day, and ask visitors to maintain a social distance and wear a face covering.

"Definitely we want them to enjoy the facilities, but still maintain safety: staying socially distant wherever possible and if they can't maintain the 6 feet, wear the mask," Santana said.

Smaller neighborhood parks, or mini-parks, remain closed for now. The restroom facilities and other buildings on park property also will remain closed.

The zoo, water parks, splash pads, and pavilion will remain closed.

In addition to parks, health and fitness centers and indoor dining, museums, zoos and movie theaters can reopen as well with restrictions.

The Brookfield Zoo will open to members on July 1 and to the general public on July 8. The Lincoln Park Zoo opens Friday to members and Monday for the general public.

The Shedd Aquarium will open for members on July 1 and the general public will be allowed back on July 3.

Phase 4 also allows for up to 50 people to attend gatherings.

Chicago had initially been set to move to Phase 4 on July 1st, but with the number of new cases declining faster than the city expected, officials decided to go ahead with the next phase Friday.

Officials said Illinois won't get to Phase Five until there's a vaccine or a treatment for the virus.

RELATED: Illinois Reopening: Phase 4 guidelines released by Gov. Pritzker

In Chicago during Phase 4, movie theaters and health and fitness centers will be limited to 25 percent capacity. While some suburban playgrounds are reopening, Chicago's playgrounds remain closed. It is not known when beaches will reopen.

For the rest of the state of Illinois, restaurants can resume indoor dining with tables at least six feet apart with no more than 10 people per table. Standing areas can be open at a maximum of 25% capacity.

Gyms and movie theaters will be able to reopen at 50-percent capacity and zoos and museums at 25-percent capacity.

Casinos and video gaming locations across Illinois can start reopening next Wednesday.

The Illinois Gaming Board says each gaming operator has submitted a plan to the state.

Casinos have been closed since the governor first issued the state's stay at home order in March.