With Chicago and suburban Cook County "on track" to enter Tier 1 coronavirus restrictions on Saturday and resume indoor dining, many restaurants are ready to welcome back customers.
Under Tier 1 guidelines, indoor service will be limited to lesser of 25% or 25 persons per room. Additionally, no tables exceeding four people will be permitted indoors.
Darnell Reed, the chef and owner of Luella's Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square, was busy Friday evening, preparing to reopen his dining room for the first time in months.
"It will help us bring people back, that’s for sure," he said. "Everyone wasn’t getting the amount of hours they were used to getting before COVID."
Similarly, Tuco and Blondie, a Mexican restaurant in Chicago's Lake View neighborhood, last served customers indoors in late October.
"It hit us hard," said James Miller with 4 Star Restaurant Group, which operates the Tuco and Blondie. "To go through a winter when you don’t have any indoor dining, and you’re relying on four tables outside, that’s tough."
Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, told NBC 5 that every little bit helps restaurants.
"We’re in a pandemic," he said. "We’re not asking for 100 percent capacity. We’re asking for social distancing, wearing your mask, keeping your place clean and sanitized, PPE in place."
State health officials plan to closely monitor test positivity, ICU bed availability, and the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19" and if numbers begin trending in the wrong direction, regions could see increased mitigations return.