JB Pritzker

Chicago Works to Expand Outdoor Dining With New Design Initiative

The first round of proposals for Chicago Alfresco will be accepted until April 15 and be approved by April 30

As the city continues to administer thousands of COVID-19 vaccines, Chicago officials announced a new design initiative in hopes to expand outdoor dining.

The Chicago Alfresco initiative provides an opportunity for businesses and community organizations to obtain a grant for designing long-term outdoor dining spaces, according to a release.

"Outdoor dining has become a lifeline for so many of our neighborhoods, but not all of them have been able to take advantage of our safe, outdoor dining programs," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "And by creating and transforming public spaces, the Chicago Alfresco initiative will significantly increase our city's ability to fully revitalize the public way."

Lightfoot explained that the program began last year "out of necessity to help bars and restaurants stay open safely," but that it would continue after the prior success.

Chicago Alfresco guidelines promote designs that show a sense of "ownership, belonging and safety" through physically transforming the space while engaging with the community, officials said.

All design plans must be for a six-month minimum, with priority given to those made for three years, according to the city's website. Proposals can be created for the following project types: existing plaza programming; street and alley activation; and curbside use.

The first round of proposals for Chicago Alfresco will be accepted until April 15 and be approved by April 30. For people looking to learn more information, a virtual webinar will be held March 26 at 3 p.m.

For the application and more information, click here.

On Thursday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced new metrics and guidelines aimed at transitioning the state to a full reopening, unveiling what he called a "Bridge Phase" that would allow for higher capacity limits prior to entering Phase 5.

The new phase allows for higher capacity limits at places like restaurants, museums and spectator events as well as increased business operations, the state announced, but masks will continue to be mandated.

The updated guidelines bridge the gap between Phase 4, which the state is currently in, and Phase 5, which would mark a complete reopening and requires a widely available vaccine or highly effective treatment.

In Phase 4, patrons at restaurants must be more than six feet apart and not include more than 10 people in one party. In standing areas, restaurants can be at 25% capacity. In the governor's new Bridge Phase, patrons still must be six feet apart, but can have more than 10 people in a group. Standing areas can hold 30% capacity indoors and 50% capacity outdoors.

In order for Illinois to advance to the Bridge Phase, the entire state must reach a 70% first-dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and older, in addition to maintain the current required metrics of at least 20% ICU beds availability and holding steady on hospitalizations for COVID-19 or COVID-like illnesses, mortality rates and case rates over a 28-day monitoring period.

Under a new rule, anyone with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test within one to three days of an event or outing will not count toward capacity limits.

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