CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot is backing down after asking Gov. JB Pritzker to reconsider the state’s new restrictions on city bars and restaurants.
The state’s restrictions — which ban indoor dining and drinking and create stricter limits on gathering sizes — go into effect Friday. Lightfoot originally said she’d asked Pritzker to reverse course out of concern for businesses, but during a Wednesday news conference the mayor said the city is working with the state and will continue to do so.
And the city has no plans to file a legal challenge to the state’s restrictions, Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot said she and Pritzker had a “very frank and productive” hour-long meeting Wednesday and “came out of that discussion really committed to making sure that we work hard together.”
Now, the focus has to be on helping businesses that will be impacted, Lightfoot said. She urged Chicagoans to get carryout to support restaurants. She also encouraged them to dine out at restaurants while they can, despite experts saying drinking and dining in restaurants and bars are riskier activities.
Many restaurants in Chicago are “literally hanging on by a thread. Some who have closed … are not gonna come back,” Lightfoot said. “So we’ve got to double down our efforts to make sure we’re communicating effectively with them, that we’re doing everything we can to support them through this difficult time.”
The city will provide technical support and guidance to business owners — particularly those with small businesses — and help them apply for Business Interruption Grants from the state, Lightfoot said. She’s encouraging owners to apply for those grants so they can get financial help during the pandemic.
More information about the state’s Business Interruption Grants is available online.
Lightfoot and Pritzker have been at odds recently over bars and restaurants and what restrictions they should face.
The governor and state health officials have emphasized bars are significant places of spread for COVID-19.
But Lightfoot and the city’s health chief, Dr. Allison Arwady, have said most of Chicago’s coronavirus spread is happening within small groups and in homes.
Pritzker said the state’s mitigation rules have worked, bringing down positivity rates and slowing the growth of new cases in other regions.
But Lightfoot’s said she’s concerned about how the restrictions will impact small businesses in Chicago.
“We are following the science,” Lightfoot said Wednesday. “Things are nuanced here in Chicago; they’re different than what we’ve experienced [elsewhere in Illinois].
“The biggest challenge that we’re facing right here in Chicago is people in their homes. We can’t stress enough: You are not safe in your home. You cannot let down your guard.”
The governor and mayor are “100 percent aligned” on some issues of safety, like asking people to wear masks, social distance and limit exposure to other people, Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot again said Chicagoans should not invite people over to slow the virus’s spread. Officials have said people should wear masks and stay 6 feet apart if indoors with people who aren’t members of their household.
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