Restaurant owners have been dreading the day that they could be forced to halt indoor service amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and Tuesday’s announcement that Chicago will see new restrictions was met with anger, frustration and sadness.
The suspension was announced by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday.
“For a time in the summer, Chicago seemed to have this more under control than other regions of Illinois, but that’s no longer the case,” he said.
The move was immediately met with criticism, including from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has largely been a steadfast defender of Pritzker’s coronavirus control efforts. Lightfoot urged the governor to reconsider the restrictions.
“I’m not sure that we’re reaching the right people with the restrictions that are going to be imposed by the state,” Lightfoot said during an interview on PBS’ “NewsHour.”
Pritzker’s office released a statement after Lightfoot’s interview, saying that they will not “make exceptions” to their mitigation strategy, which includes mitigations that are triggered by hitting certain key coronavirus metrics in both positivity rates and in hospitalization rates.
The new guidelines ban indoor dining, and require any outdoor dining to end at 11 p.m. Reservations will be required for those wanting to dine at restaurants, and multiple parties will not be allowed to sit at the same table.
The news, while not unexpected, still generated a wave of different emotions from business owners.
“My reaction is that I’m very upset,” Giovanni Scalzo, owner of Via Carducci La Sorella in Wicker Park, said. “It’s out of proportion. It should not be the way that it is. They should give us a chance to continue with space, masks and this will stop whatever the virus is.”
Marissa Tunon, director of operations at Mercadito in River North, summed things up very succinctly.
“It’s not great,” she said. “We’re taking every single precaution we could, to be as safe as possible, and we were finally feeling a sense of normalcy and doing good.”
The Illinois Restaurant Association says the ban could be a death blow to an industry that is already scrambling to stay alive during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The National Restaurant Association predicted up to 20% of restaurants could close,” Sam Toia, president and CEO of the IRA, said. “I think that could shoot up to 30, maybe 35%.”
The new restrictions, which could potentially face legal challenges, are set to take effect on Friday.