NOTE: Chicago's Department of Public Health is set to hold a press conference on reopening guidelines at 1 p.m. Click here to watch it live.
Chicago is again increasing indoor dining capacity at restaurants and bars and easing several coronavirus restrictions as the city's coronavirus positivity rate continues to drop to levels not seen since the pandemic began.
City officials announced Tuesday that, effective immediately, restaurants, bars and events can offer indoor service at 50% capacity. Prior to Tuesday, indoor dining was limited to 40% capacity.
Still, restaurants, bars and event venues will be limited to 50 people within any one space.
In addition, the curfew for restaurants and bars is being extended from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Alcohol sales from liquor stores and other establishments can also continue until 11 p.m., after nearly a year of being limited to a 9 p.m. stop time.
Other industries, such as performance venues, health and fitness centers, movie theaters and personal services, can also increase to 50% capacity, with no more than 50 people within any one space and 20 people in indoor fitness classes, the city announced.
“We have made incredible progress in recent weeks and months, and I thank our business community for their ongoing commitment to saving lives,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “I am thrilled that we have reached 50% capacity, but I again call on all of our businesses and residents to double down on what works. We must remain diligent as we continue to move forward cautiously and responsibly.”
For restaurants, bars and event spaces, regulations that remain in place include:
- Food must be available at all times in order to offer indoor service. This means that bars, taverns or breweries without a food license can reopen indoors as long as they partner with a food establishment so that food is available to patrons at all times (e.g., making menus available and allowing delivery, allowing patrons to order from third-party delivery services).
- Maximum of six patrons at indoor or outdoor tables.
- Patrons can sit at bars, with six feet of social distancing between parties.
- Face coverings must be worn at all times, except when patrons are seated and actively eating or drinking.
- Patrons must be seated whenever they are eating or drinking.
- Tables must be six feet apart.
“Chicago restaurants are ready and eager to serve more diners safely,” Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association said in a statement. “These updated regulations are another step in the right direction that will give needed flexibility to operators across our 77 neighborhoods, protect hospitality jobs, and allow businesses to welcome more customers back with extensive public health measures in place."
The expansion of indoor service comes after the city reached what it says is at least a "moderate risk level" in four health metrics.
Those metrics, and where the city stands currently, are as follows:
- COVID cases diagnosed per day: currently averaging 283, in the “Moderate-Risk” level.
- COVID test positivity: currently averaging 2.9%, in the “Lower-Risk” level
- Emergency Departments visits for COVID-like illness: currently averaging 42 per day, in the “Lower-Risk” level
- ICU beds occupied by COVID patients: currently averaging 103, in the “Moderate-Risk” level
“We have been trending in the right direction and I congratulate Chicagoans for continuing to do the right thing in helping us contain the spread of the virus,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. ”We need to keep it up so we can continue to reopen our city safely and smartly, and get back to doing the things we love.”
The city entered Phase 4 of Illinois' coronavirus mitigations on Jan. 31, allowing indoor dining capacity to increase, among other changes, under the state's guidelines.
But as restrictions were relaxed when Chicago entered Phase 4, Lightfoot and Chicago officials had previously decided not to increase the indoor dining capacity limit in according with state guidelines, leaving it at the lesser of 25% or 25 persons per room.
In explaining the decision to curtail the state's Phase 4 guidelines, Chicago health officials said it was "standard public health practice" to monitor the impact of any significant mitigation change for a minimum of two weeks.
In mid-February, capacity was then increased to 40% or 50 people per room.