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Bars Can Now Apply To Open Sidewalk Cafes For Customers During Coronavirus Pandemic

Previously, only restaurants were allowed to apply for and open a sidewalk cafe. The city hopes the change can help alcohol-only bars and taverns stay afloat.

Patrons buy drinks Saturday from Old Crow Smokehouse's curbside bar on Clark Street in Wrigleyville. It was the first weekend of Illinois' Phase 4 of reopening amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city will make it easier for liquor-only bars and taverns to open sidewalk cafes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Indoor service at such businesses was banned starting July 24 as officials, who described indoor bars as “higher-risk scenarios” for COVID-19, tried to stop the spread of the virus. The ban meant businesses that don’t have outdoor patios had to close entirely again — with some bar owners saying the ban had shut down their businesses permanently.

Looking to help, the city will allow businesses that serve alcohol without a Retail Food License to apply to use the Outdoor Dining Program so they can temporarily operate on the sidewalk in front of their businesses, the Mayor’s Office announced Friday. The change is effective immediately.

Previously, only restaurants were allowed to apply for and open a sidewalk cafe.

The sidewalk cafes used by bars and taverns must be set up to allow for 6 feet of pedestrian space, and service areas must be enclosed by a barrier, according to the Mayor’s Office.

Liquor businesses must also partner with a food establishment to ensure patrons can get food, according to the Mayor’s Office.

The city will also allow bars and restaurants to apply for an Expanded Outdoor Dining Permit so they can offer service temporarily in patios, courtyards and terraces. Previously, owners had to apply for an Outdoor Patio license to try to set up service in those spots.

Read all of Block Club’s coverage on outdoor dining here.

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