River North outdoor dining on Clark Street to be limited to sidewalks, parking lanes

Maher Kawash Image
Friday, May 17, 2024
Clark Street outdoor dining limited to sidewalks, parking lanes
River North restaurant outdoor dining on Clark Street in downtown Chicago will be limited to sidewalks and parking lanes with no street closures.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Parts of Clark Street in River North will only partially close for outdoor dining this year.

Changes are on the way for the special outdoor dining experience that began because of the COVID pandemic. Unlike in past years, tables will only be allowed on sidewalks and in curb lanes, allowing vehicles to also use the street.

ABC7 Chicago is now streaming 24/7. Click here to watch

The city announced the new plan that involves a three-block stretch of Clark Street between Grand and Kinzie.

Some people say the complete closure of part of Clark Street during the summer brought a special atmosphere. Many of them are disappointed after hearing that outdoor dining will be limited to sidewalks and parking lanes.

"Such a bummer... I really being able to dine on Clark Street," River North resident Alexandra Kane said. "It was so enjoyable when it was shut down, and now that it's moved to the sidewalk it's a bit crowded."

SEE ALSO | Here are some of the best rooftop, patio bars and restaurants across the Chicago area

"The format will give participating restaurants extra capacity and create an inviting outdoor space for dining, while taking into account the need for accessibility and traffic flow in the River North community," a statement from Mayor Brandon Johnson's office read in part.

Some restaurants in the area are disappointed about the new rules.

"Just seeing the street closed down, it attracts more people 'cause it's a whole vibe," said Giuliana Ames, supervisor at Havana. "We have a bunch of space and people decorate the sidewalks, and it's just more comfortable when the whole street can be shut down."

SEE ALSO | Earn points, win prizes by visiting breweries with Chicago Brew Pass

"I think a lot of the businesses can agree... it definitely gave more of a homey vibe, and now we're just kind of bummed out," said Hedith Diazs with Levain Bakery.

Alderman Brendan Reilly of the 42nd Ward had been advocating for the full street closure and even supported another proposal to completely shut down the stretch of Clark Street starting in mid-July, after the NASCAR street race was over.

"That was not my preference, but I was willing to accept that as a fair compromise," a statement from Reilly read in part.

The mayor's office rejected that compromise this week.

Ald. Reilly sent a letter to the mayor following the decision, saying "I respectfully request that you reconsider."

The permits for the sidewalk and parking lane usage are effective immediately and run until October 31.

The Illinois Restaurant Association said it respects the restaurants on both sides of the issue, but ultimately expressed how important outdoor dining is for Chicago.