CHICAGO — The city would continue to loosen regulations for restaurants and other small businesses into 2021 under a newly proposed ordinance.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot is introducing the ordinance at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. It would extend the city’s Expanded Outdoor Dining Program and further delay the expiration of business and public vehicle licenses, among other measures, according to a Mayor’s Office news release.
The ordinance is part of an effort to provide regulatory relief to businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Many small businesses and restaurants have taken a financial beating due to COVID-19, with some closing permanently.
“While we are still planning additional structural supports that we will announce in the coming months, the extension of these existing measures will provide critical emergency relief to tens of thousands of Chicago’s businesses,” Lightfoot said in the news release.
Should the ordinance be approved, every business and public vehicle license that would have expired March 15, 2020-June 15, 2021, will instead still be considered active, and people will have until July 15 to renew their licenses, according to the Mayor’s Office.
The ordinance would also extend changes put in place this spring and summer to help restaurants serve more people outdoors due to COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining.
Reforms to the Sidewalk Cafe permitting process would be extended into 2021, allowing businesses to get those permits faster and cheaper, according to the Mayor’s Office. The changes allow restaurants to extend outdoor dining to the sidewalk in front of a neighboring business, with the fee reduced 75 percent from its typical rate.
Businesses that already had a Sidewalk Cafe permit that was going to expire Feb. 28 would instead have their permits continued through June 1, allowing them more to serve customers before the permit would expire.
And the ordinance would extend the Expanded Outdoor Dining program through the end of 2021. The program was created over the summer to allow restaurants to extend their outdoor seating into parking lots, closed streets and other spots so they could serve more customers outdoors.
While the city’s health officials have predicted small amounts of vaccine could start going out to hospital workers before the end of 2020, life isn’t expected to return to normal until toward the end of 2021 — or even after that.
That means people will continue to need to wear masks and businesses will still face restrictions, like limits on indoor dining, for some time to prevent spread of COVID-19.
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