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Limit St. Patrick’s Day Crowds Or We’ll Shut You Down, City Warns Chicago Bars

Dancing and congregating won't be allowed, and patrons must remain seated in bars, the city's liquor commissioner said.

A pre-pandemic St. Patrick's Day bar crawl in Wrigleyville in Chicago.

CHICAGO — The Chicago River won’t be dyed green and parades won’t be staged, but Chicago bars will be open for extended St. Patrick’s Day holiday celebrations this weekend and next week.

Now, the city’s liquor control commissioner is warning bars to keep a lid on large crowds — or they will be shut down.

Shannon Trotter, the city’s liquor control commissioner, sent a list of rules to bar owners Saturday to stress the importance of following state and city COVID-19 rules on what is typically a busy holiday weekend. Under current guidelines, bars and restaurants are limited to 50 percent capacity or 50 people per room, whichever is fewer, and tables, including those outdoors, must be spaced 6 feet apart with no more than six people per table.

Bar owners should keep count of the number of patrons they are letting in. If they are found to be operating over capacity limits, bars “will be closed and cited and will face license discipline,” Trotter wrote in the letter.

She also specifically warned against “dancing or other congregating,” saying everyone must remain seated. People must also wear masks, except when “actively” eating or drinking.

The city is strongly encouraging bars to use an online reservation system to avoid people crowding onto sidewalks. If lines form, bar owners will be “responsible for the activity of the individuals waiting in line,” and staff must be on hand to enforce 6-feet social distancing standards, Trotter wrote.

“Bar crawls are discouraged,” according to the letter, and anyone observed drinking in the public way can be arrested.

Bars and restaurants can stay open until 1 a.m., while packaged goods license holders, including breweries, must close by 11 p.m.

The city has reopened in recent months as the spread of coronavirus has lessened. On Wednesday, the city’s COVID-19 dashboard showed the seven-day rolling average positivity rate sat at 2.7 percent, down from 2.9 percent a week ago.

Still, Trotter told bar and restaurant owners it’s “imperative” staff is up to date on current state and local safety restrictions.

While the city legalized cocktails-to-go last year, bars were reminded in the letter they must be served in a tamper-proof, sealed container, “with no straw or drinking holes.”

After the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parades were canceled last year in the Loop and on the city’s South Side, revelers lined the streets to pack into crowded bars, earning a rebuke from city and state officials who said they didn’t anticipate the large crowds in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

The day after, photos of crowded sidewalks and packed bars shocked social media and Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an order limiting bars to half their regular capacity or 100 people and required them to prevent lines forming outside. 

This year, parades are canceled once again.

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