CHICAGO — The city will keep capacity limits on indoor service at bars and restaurants even if the state eases up on its restrictions in coming days, the Mayor’s Office announced Friday.
That means restaurants and bars will have to keep following the city’s rules and limiting capacity to the lesser of 25 percent or 25 people per room. The Mayor’s Office said the stricter limits need to stay in place longer because Chicago is still in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic and there are too many new cases and deaths per day being reported.
The city will relax other rules, though, including lifting its 11 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew for non-essential businesses.
“We still have more work to do and we must remain diligent in the fight against this deadly, unceasing virus,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “I am optimistic that we will be able to increase capacity soon, but it would be irresponsible and dangerous to rush to reopen further and undo the incredible progress we have made as a city.”
The city could move into Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan as soon as Monday. To do so, it needs to have a case rate of 6.5 percent or less for three consecutive days; on Friday, Chicago had a case rate of 6.4 percent.
When Chicago does move into Phase 4, the following rules will be in place at the city level, according to the Mayor’s Office:
- Indoor dining and indoor events will remain limited to the lesser of 25 percent capacity or 25 people per space.
- Most other industries will be limited to the lesser of 40 percent capacity or 50 people .
- Bar seating will be allowed and indoor table size can increase from four to six people.
- Non-essential business curfew will be repealed, meaning businesses will no longer have to be closed 11 p.m.-6 a.m.
- Bars and restaurants will be able to extend operating hours to midnight, but they can’t offer alcohol service after 11 p.m.
Chicago is allowed to have stricter rules than the state and the city has, at times, enforced tighter restrictions.
But the move to continue to limit capacity for indoor service came as a surprise, as Lightfoot has repeatedly pushed Gov. JB Pritzker to reopen restaurants and relax restrictions on indoor service — including earlier this month.
The city’s health department will soon release additional information on its Phase 4 rules and how indoor service could be expanded, according to the Mayor’s Office.
Typically, Chicago and the state have waited 14 days after loosening up on restrictions before relaxing them even more, using that time to see if the easing-up led to COVID-19 resurging.
But the state has moved quicker when relaxing rules in its regions this month. Region 11, which covers Chicago, started the month at the highest level of restrictions — Tier 3— and moved into Tier 2 on Jan. 18 and Tier 1 Saturday. It could move into Phase 4, when restrictions are at their most relaxed barring the complete reopening of the state, as early as Monday.
A “hurried return to greater indoor capacity” could risk the city’s progress against its outbreak, according to the Mayor’s Office.
“We have just resumed safe indoor dining, and while we are excited to make that move we must continue to be thoughtful and cautious in our reopening,” Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “The last thing we want is to cause a third wave of the virus by rushing to fully reopen riskier settings where masks are removed and people gather in close proximity.”
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