Chicago to ease COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants, bars, fitness centers and more

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) – You will soon be able to drink inside Chicago bars under…

Chicago to ease COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants, bars, fitness centers and more

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) – You will soon be able to drink inside Chicago bars under relaxed rules announced by the city on Monday.

Mayor Lightfoot, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection announced Monday that Chicago has made sufficient progress in the fight against COVID-19 to ease certain restrictions on businesses.

Restaurants, health and fitness centers, personal services, non-essential retail and all other establishments that have been limited to 25 percent indoor capacity will now be able to increase their maximum indoor capacity to 40 percent beginning Thursday, Oct. 1 at 5 a.m. The limit of 50 total customers within one room or space at restaurants, venues and other establishments will remain in place, as will the limit of no more than six people per table.

Breweries, taverns, bars and other establishments that serve alcohol without a food license may reopen with indoor seating, at 25 percent capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer. Service remains limited to no more than two hours per party, and customers must be seated when eating, drinking or ordering – patrons cannot walk up to the bar to order, Mayor Lightfoot announced.

Bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol will now be able to sell alcohol for on-site or off-site consumption until 1 a.m. and may remain open until 1 a.m. Liquor stores, grocery stores and other establishments that sell alcohol to-go through a Packaged Goods license must continue to cease alcohol sales at 9 p.m.

Other restrictions ease include the maximum group size for health and fitness classes and after-school programming. It will increase from 10 to 15 people.

Additionally, facials, shaves and other personal services that require the removal of face coverings will be allowed starting Thursday, but the employee must remain masked and complete the service in 15 minutes, Lightfoot said.

While enough progress has been made to ease certain restrictions, Chicago remains in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and calls on all businesses and customers to continue following the Phase Four guidelines. In order to continue the significant progress, the following additional guidelines will also come into effect on Thursday, Oct. 1:

• When dining out at a food service establishment or bar, customers must always wear face coverings while seated, except when actively eating or drinking.

• Patrons at indoor bars, taverns and breweries must order from their seats – they cannot walk up to the bar to order. Bars, taverns and breweries that are reopening indoors must partner with a food establishment so that food is available to patrons at all times

• When taking reservations and seating walk-in customers, restaurants and bars should retain an email and/or phone number for possible contact tracing.

• Personal services that require the removal of face coverings are recommended to be kept under 15 minutes, and the employee conducting the service must always wear a face covering.

• All places of business should provide hand sanitizer for patrons and employees to use upon entry.

These changes build on Chicago’s status as one of the most open large cities in America and are possible due to continued improvement on crucial COVID health metrics, including a declining number of new daily cases, a test positivity rate now below 5 percent and the lowest rates of hospitalization and death in months.

“Over the past six months, we have asked so much of our business community. But each time, our businesses have stepped up to the plate,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “Thanks to this cooperation, we have met this challenging moment with grace, commitment and resilience, and the sacrifices made by our businesses, workers and residents have saved countless lives. This next step in our reopening is good news for business owners as well as the communities they serve and the thousands of residents that work for them.”

Chicago is now seeing around 300 new COVID cases per day whereas in late August the city was over 350 cases per day and rising. Test positivity has fallen to 4.5 percent and severe outcomes have also improved, with hospitalizations from COVID lower than they’ve been since March and deaths at an average of two to three per day, when they were around 50 per day at the peak of the pandemic.

“Overall, we are heading in the right direction, and this affords us an opportunity to further reopen the city and to do so gradually and safely,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D., said in a statement. “But I can’t emphasize this enough: Chicagoans need to continue to follow the public health guidance – wearing masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick – or we risk falling back and experiencing another rise in cases.”

To help keep communities safe while supporting the neighborhood economy, the city announced a partnership with homegrown technology company Tock to provide free technology solutions for restaurants and bars in low-income communities. Through this partnership, Tock will offer a free set-up and six-month subscription to Tock Plus Lite for restaurants and bars without a reservation system in areas of the city below 60 percent of the Area Median Income. This one-of-a-kind program will provide these establishments with the ability to manage reservations, takeout, delivery and events all through one unified system. This program, which is also available at a low cost citywide, can be used by businesses to retain cell phone numbers and email addresses to support contact tracing for reservations and when seating walk-ins.

“As a locally-grown Chicago business, we are thrilled to partner with the city to help expand safe dining and help restaurants build a bridge to the future,” said Brian Fitzpatrick, Tock’s co-founder and CTO. “For many restaurants and bars, especially those in historically disinvested areas, technology can make all the difference. Access to reservation systems during this critical time will help businesses keep pace while ensuring that they comply with regulations to keep their employees and patrons safe.”

To prepare all business owners for the new phase four guidelines and for the cold weather regulations, the City of Chicago will be hosting a series of webinars this week. To register and learn more, visit chicago.gov/businesseducation. Additionally, the city today is launching an “Eat. Shop. Live Chicago.” campaign to support small businesses. The city and its partners will use this campaign to encourage dining and shopping at small businesses throughout the fall and winter months while highlighting businesses that are operating safely and responsibly.

Updated reopening guidelines can be found at chicago.gov/reopening.

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