Chicago Announces Eased Coronavirus Business Restrictions

CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday announced eased coronavirus restrictions on city businesses, including boosted indoor occupancy levels for restaurants and health clubs.

“Over the past six months, we have asked so much of our business community. But each time, our businesses have stepped up to the plate,” Lightfoot said, billing Chicago as America’s most open big city in America.

“Thanks to this cooperation, we have met this challenging moment with grace, commitment and resilience, and the sacrifices made by our businesses, workers and residents have saved countless lives. This next step in our reopening is good news for business owners as well as the communities they serve and the thousands of residents that work for them.”

The changes come as city public health officials report more than 28 days of slow decreases in COVID-19 cases and the coronavirus test positivity rate. As of Monday, Chicago public officials say the city is averaging about 300 new coronavirus cases per day, an improvement compared to late August, when the daily average of new cases was 350 and rising. The city’s test positivity rate has decreased to about 4.5 percent, officials said.

Starting at 5 a.m. Thursday the following regulations go into effect:

  • Restaurants, health and fitness centers, personal services, non-essential retail and all other establishments that have been limited to 25 percent indoor capacity will now be able to increase their maximum indoor capacity to 40 percent. The limit of 50 total customers within one room or space at restaurants, venues and other establishments will remain in place, as will the limit of no more than six people per table.

  • Bars: Breweries, taverns, bars and other establishments that serve alcohol without a food license may reopen with indoor seating, at 25 percent capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer. Service remains limited to no more than two hours per party, and customers must be seated when eating, drinking or ordering — patrons cannot walk up to the bar to order.

  • Bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol will now be able to sell alcohol for on-site or off-site consumption until 1:00 am and may remain open until 1:30 am. Liquor stores, grocery stores and other establishments that sell alcohol to-go through a Packaged Goods license must continue to cease alcohol sales at 9:00 p.m.

  • Maximum group size for health and fitness classes and after-school programming will increase from 10 to 15 people.

  • Facials, shaves and other personal services that require the removal of face coverings will be allowed.

“Overall, we are heading in the right direction, and this affords us an opportunity to further re-open the city and to do so gradually and safely,” city public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement.

“But I can’t emphasize this enough: Chicagoans need to continue to follow the public health guidance — wearing masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick — or we risk falling back and experiencing another rise in cases.”

Mayor Lightfoot also announced other new rules for restaurants and bars, including a requirement to wear face masks except when a person is in the act of eating or drinking.

“I know this requirement is a pain in the butt. Let’s just be blunt about it,” Lightfoot said at the news conference. “This is important to protect you and protect the server who comes to your table.”

The new rules include requiring bars that don’t serve food to provide customers with menus from establishments allowed to deliver to the bar, keep tabs of customer email addresses and phone numbers in the event coronavirus contact tracing is needed and provide hand sanitizer at entrances.

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

This article originally appeared on the Chicago Patch