Chicago indoor dining expected to return Saturday with city, suburban Cook Co. on track for Tier 1

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago and Cook County are on track to upgrade to Tier 1 mitigations on Saturday, state health officials announced Friday, meaning restaurants and bars will be able to reopen for limited indoor dining.

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At Crosby's Kitchen, they are fired up about the possibility of being able to reopen for indoor dining Saturday and being able to welcome customers in from the cold of outdoor seating.

"From everything we're hearing it's pretty much set, it's 99% ready to go," said James Miller, director of operations for 4 Star Restaurant Group. "I mean, everybody's getting amped up, they're excited. We started the process about a week ago, hearing that this was trending this way."

Take-out and delivery have been staples for months, but now staff has been contacted, schedules are in place and tables are ready.

"I'm excited about having people in the restaurant as much as I am about getting our staff back to work," Miller said.

At Jerry's Sandwiches and Geraldine's Cafe in Lincoln Square, staff spent Friday prepping the dining room.

"Cafe It'll make a huge difference. It'll double our seating capacity that we have now outside," said Adam Dempewof, general manager of Jerry's Sandwiches.

Under Tier 1 mitigations, indoor dining is restricted to 25% capacity or 25 people per room with a limit of four per table, and restaurants must close by 11 p.m. Still, on a chilly winter night the thought of trading a igloo for a fireplace elicited warm feelings.

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Chicago and suburban Cook County are expected to move into Tier 1 mitigations Saturday, allowing limited indoor dining to reopen.



Both Chicago and Cook County restaurants and bars poised to be able to reopen as the COVID-19 test positivity rates in Regions 10 and 11 continue trending down.

"So we will be able to know tomorrow if they in fact meet their criteria and it's looking like they will get there. So that announcement will be made tomorrow," Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

Under the Tier 1 restrictions, bars and restaurants can open for indoor dining at 25% capacity or 25 people max per room. Food must be available at all times, but can be provided by outside vendors for those without a food license. Tables must be six feet apart, face coverings required except when actively eating or drinking and establishments must close by 11 p.m.

The city will be responding to complaints of egregious violations, but anticipates very good compliance from bars and restaurants.

"And I think this is why you see the progress in the numbers continuing to go down, because for the most part, people are really trying to do their best to keep, not only their customers, but their families and their employees safe," Chicago Dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno said.

Lori Lightfoot issued a statement Friday that said: "I am thrilled that Chicago has made sufficient progress in the ongoing fight against the deadly COVID-19 virus to allow indoor service at bars and restaurants in the very near future. This pandemic has been devastating for businesses and their workers, especially for bars and restaurants, and I know that this move will provide much-needed relief at a critical time. Our businesses have stepped up repeatedly to save lives throughout this crisis and I am thrilled that we will soon be ready to take this step to reopen more businesses and get employees back to work. As we prepare for easing of restrictions, I call on all of our businesses and residents to once more commit to what works to fight the spread of COVID-19. Only by wearing masks, maintaining social distance, avoiding large gatherings, following the business regulations and getting the vaccine when it is available, will we be able to continue moving forward in our reopening plan."

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Tier 1 mitigation measures currently allow the following. Lightfoot's office said it will await official guidance from the state before officially moving to Tier 1:

Restaurants and Bars


Can reopen indoors at lesser of 25% or 25 people per space
Food must be available at all times in order to offer indoor service. This means that bars, taverns or breweries without a food license can reopen indoors as long as they partner with a food establishment so that food is available to patrons at all times (e.g., making menus available and allowing delivery, allowing patrons to order from third-party delivery services).
Table size limited to no more than four people per indoor table and six people per outdoor table
Face coverings must be worn at all times, except when patrons are seated and actively eating or drinking.
Patrons must be seated whenever they are eating or drinking
Tables must be six feet apart
Indoor service limited to no more than two hours
All bars and restaurants must close at 11pm

Meetings, Social Events and Gatherings


Events will be limited to lesser 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity both indoors and outdoors
Indoor events will be able to serve food or drinks, but indoor service guidelines must be followed:
o Face coverings must be worn at all times, except when patrons are seated and actively eating or drinking

o Four people per indoor table
o Patrons must be seated whenever they are eating or drinking
o Tables must be six feet apart
o Indoor events must end at 11pm
Household gatherings limited to no more than ten people

Other Industries


Most other industries limited to 40% capacity with 50 people max within a room or space
Indoor fitness classes can expand to the lesser of 15 people or 40% capacity
Face coverings worn at all times, with the exception of limited instances such as for personal services that require their removal

WATCH: Indoor dining returns in Will, Kankakee counties


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Will and Kankakee counties are advancing to Tier 1, meaning restaurants in the south suburbs can now reopen for limited indoor dining.



State health officials announced that Illinois Region 7 - Kankakee and Will counties - had moved into Tier 1 mitigation Thursday, allowing indoor restaurant and bar dining service for up to 25 people or 25% capacity per room, whichever is fewer people.

Some restaurants, including George's in Lockport, have been serving customers inside even while it was officially banned by the state. But the team there is still excited by the news and hope it will make more customers feel safe enough to drop in for a bite. Manager Lauren Straub said she was elated to learn that limited indoor dining can resume in Will and Kankakee counties.



"People are gonna feel comfortable and, you know, want to come in and they feel safe enough to come in and dine with us," Straub said.

In nearby Romeoville, Gio's breakfast was still mostly empty after the indoor dining reboot announcement. But manager Giselle Evangelista is thinking her dining room will be an attractive option for people hoping to keep their social distance.

"It's really really big," Evangelista said. "I feel like people are gonna see that on our Facebook page."

And with more in-person dining, she's hoping her staff will see more tips - which haven't been as plentiful with take-out orders.

"Since our servers rely on tips, that will help us out a lot more because that's basically what we live off," she said.

WATCH: Why some restaurants won't reopen even if restrictions loosen


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Even when restrictions are lifted in Chicago, some restaurants say they still won't be reopening for now.



Even when restrictions are lifted in the city, some restaurants still won't be reopening for now.

"25% (capacity) makes us lose money, 50% (capacity) makes us lose money," said Jodi Fyfe, owner of Eden in the West Loop.

But for Chicago restaurants that want to reopen indoor dining, city officials say that may be possible as soon as this weekend if the current trends hold.
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