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Indoor Dining Expanded To 50 Percent In Chicago As Reported Coronavirus Cases Drop

Bars and restaurants can now stay open until 1 a.m. and packaged alcohol can be sold until 11 p.m.

COVID, mask, Chicago, winter, Wicker Park, file photo
Sherri and Bob Beiser of downtown Chicago dine with friends under a tent set up for outdoor dining along Division Street in Wicker Park on Dec. 2, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Bars and restaurants can expand indoor capacity to 50 percent as the city continues to make progress on its fight against coronavirus, city officials announced Tuesday.

Indoor dining at bars, restaurants and other venues is allowed at 50 percent of a business’ capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer. The increased indoor dining capacity comes just two weeks after the city raised the capacity to 40 percent from the previous restriction of 25 percent.

Bars and restaurants can now stay open until 1 a.m. Previously, establishments had to close at 11 p.m. The curfew on packaged alcohol sales has also been lifted from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The changes go into effect immediately, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office.

Business restrictions meant to halt the spread of coronavirus are being rolled back as the city continues to see declining case counts and increased vaccinations, Lightfoot said.

“We have made incredible progress in recent weeks and months, and I thank our business community for their ongoing commitment to saving lives,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “I am thrilled that we have reached 50 percent capacity, but I again call on all of our businesses and residents to double down on what works. We must remain diligent as we continue to move forward cautiously and responsibly.”  

In February, officials unveiled a “roadmap” to reopening that dictated what coronavirus metrics were needed in order to lessen business restrictions.

Chicago began meeting those metrics last month, when the daily COVID-19 case count finally went under 400. As of Tuesday, the city is averaging 283 COVID-19 diagnoses a day.

The city’s test positivity rate is at 2.9 percent and emergency room visits for coronavirus-like cases are down to 42 per day, putting the city in the “lower risk” level of the reopening guidelines.

Chicago needed to stay at moderate or low risk for two weeks for the 40 percent indoor dining capacity to be expanded.

“We have been trending in the right direction and I congratulate Chicagoans for continuing to do the right thing in helping us contain the spread of the virus,” said Chicago Public Health Chief Dr. Allison Arwady in a statement. ”We need to keep it up so we can continue to reopen our city safely and smartly, and get back to doing the things we love.”   

One business restriction will remain in place: a limit on indoor gatherings to no more than 50 people.

Restaurant owners and business groups want that capacity limit lifted, or to allow for the partitioning of large groups within an establishment, according to the Chicago-Sun-Times.

“Chicago restaurants are ready and eager to serve more diners safely,” Sam Toia, President & CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association, said in a statement.

The industry has struggled throughout the pandemic, as officials and experts have said indoor dining and drinking at bars and restaurants are among the riskiest things to do as there’s more potential for COVID-19 to spread. But those struggles have been heightened during the winter, with patio seating no longer an option for many establishments.

And Chicago has imposed tighter restrictions on restaurants and bars than other parts of the state, which have no capacity restrictions.

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