Calling Valentine's Day weekend "one of the few bright spots for the restaurant industry," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot revealed Monday the city is considering expanding indoor dining capacity with the holiday weekend around the corner.
The city entered Phase 4 of Illinois' coronavirus mitigations on Friday, Jan. 29, which according to state guidelines, permitted indoor dining capacity to increase. Even as restrictions were relaxed overall, Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health decided not to increase the capacity limit, which remains the lesser of 25% or 25 persons per room.
Explaining their decision, health officials said it is "standard public health practice" to monitor the impact of any significant mitigation change for a minimum of two weeks.
Sunday, Feb. 14 marks two weeks since Chicago entered Phase 4 mitigations. Partial indoor dining resumed in the city on Jan. 23, when the city reached the threshold to move under Tier 1 restrictions.
At an unrelated news conference, Lightfoot again acknowledged how the restaurant and hospitality industries have been extremely hard hit during the pandemic, adding an announcement on capacity restrictions is expected later this week.
"There's ground to be made up," she said. "I'm very well aware that we're in daily conversations with the leading trades for the restaurants. This is something that we spent some time talking about over the course of the weekend."
Under Phase 4 guidelines as determined by IDPH, indoor bar service may resume without restrictions requiring food service and indoor dining is allowed for parties up to 10 people. Also, standing areas are permitted at no more than 25% of capacity.
In a statement from Jan. 29 as the city was expected to enter Phase 4, Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, told NBC 5 restaurants are confident they can safely serve more guests in the phase.
"As one of the most highly regulated industries in terms of health and safety — and with enhanced precautions introduced during COVID-19 — Chicago restaurant operators know how to protect the wellbeing of their guests and team members," he stated. "...The industry needs more to survive this crisis."