Bar and restaurant owners across Chicago as well as their patrons are bracing for impact as new rules are scheduled to come to indoor dining and non-essential businesses amid a second wave of coronavirus cases.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new restrictions during a Thursday briefing, suspending indoor bar service just weeks after reopening such establishments as colder weather begins to limit outdoor options.
"It's very difficult to regulate mask wearing in bars and that’s why were’ taking steps were taking," Lightfoot said Thursday.
The restrictions will also force non-essential businesses to close their doors by 10 p.m.
"Its just sad," said Jose Sosa, a chef at Gibsons Italia. "Because not everyone is following rules to make sure everyone is safe, and that’s the frustrating part. Sad to hear we have to close at 10 p.m. or have limited seating on the inside."
The shutdown will hit bars and breweries that have already taken a blow by the pandemic and unless they have a commercial food license, they won’t be able to serve customers indoors.
“We were doing the social distancing,” said Old Town Ale House manager Tim Polk. “We have jumped through all the hoops: new windows, new plumbing. It’s ridiculous.”
Lightfoot said the move comes as Chicago is seeing a second wave of the coronavirus. The average number of cases increased from 418 per day one week ago to 645 per day, a 54% increase.
"Ninety nine percent are dong it right, sanitizing, wearing masks," said Sam Toia, the president of the Illinois Restaurant Association. "We always care about health and safety of our team members and guests. We think you’re most likely to catch coronavirus in your friends’ basement then you are in one of our restaurants in the state of Illinois."
On Thursday, the test positivity rate in Chicago sat at 6.4%. One week ago, that number was 4.6%.
If positivity rates don't improve, the mayor warned that indoor dining could be off the table entirely, a move Toia said would be dire.
"Restaurant sales are down 50-80%," he said. "If we go into shelter in place again, it’s gonna be the death blow to the industry here in the state of Illinois."