coronavirus chicago

Reopening Plan for Chicago's Lakefront, Bars Unveiled

The lakefront has been closed since late March to restrict large gatherings and slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday announced plans to reopen the city's lakefront and area bars, but with some changes and new restrictions in place.

Beginning June 22, the Lakefront Trail will open east of Lake Shore Drive from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, but constant motion will be required. Beaches and parks east of Lake Shore Drive will remain closed, however.

The 18-mile Lakefront Trail will be open for exercise and transit only, and no other recreational activities will be allowed, the mayor's office said, stating "Chicagoans must abide by a 'keep it moving' strategy where only walking, running, biking, and rollerblading will be allowed."

"At this time, the Chicago Park District will not allow congregating, gathering or use of park amenities, which includes but is not limited to, stationary activities, fitness classes, barbeques, beaches, and picnicking," the mayor's office said in a release.

Roughly half of the more than 50 access points to the lakefront will remain closed in an effort to minimize traffic, officials said.

“The trail is one of our city’s most treasured lakefront amenities,” Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly said in a statement. “We are excited to share plans to reopen the trail, encourage active living and provide guidance on how people can begin resuming activities safely.”

There will also be so-called "Social Distancing Ambassadors" stationed along the trail to "educate the public and manage the flow of traffic."

In addition, bars, taverns and breweries can offer outside services beginning Wednesday.

That means outdoor patios, rooftops, rooms with retractable roofs and indoor spaces where 50% or more of a wall can be removed by opening windows, doors, or panels.

Additionally, venues with a Tavern License will now be eligible for an Expanded Outdoor Dining Permit, which will allow them to expand outdoor seating on their properties, including in parking lots.

Bars and breweries may also participate if they are on some of the streets across the city closing to traffic to allow for outdoor seating.

“Craft brewers across the city are grateful to Mayor Lightfoot and her team for their efforts to include brewery taprooms in phase three for outdoor dining. We look forward to safely reopening with continued adherence to all the guidelines provided by our public health officials," Kevin Cary, owner of Begyle Brewing and president of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, said in a statement.

Lightfoot had been hinting at plans to reopen the city's lakefront and ease further restrictions in phase three for weeks. On Friday, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady noted that an announcement could be coming this week.

Chicago entered phase three of its reopening plan on June 3, allowing several small businesses to reopen with new guidelines and limitations, as well as permitting gatherings of up to 10 people.

The new phase did not immediately allow the reopening of the lakefront, which has been closed since late March to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

On reopening the lakefront, Lightfoot has hinted several times that there may be changes and restrictions when it reopens to reduce crowds and accommodate for social distancing guidelines.

“What I don't want to see happen is scenes that we've seen, for example, from other states, where you open up a resource that people really love and enjoy, and then it gets mobbed,” Lightfoot said late last month. “And you see people abandoning all of the hard work and social distancing and public health guidance that really got us to the point where we can even talk about opening.”

Lightfoot said she’s been working with stakeholders and city aldermen to prepare guidance for residents hoping to enjoy the many features the lakefront provides, while incorporating examples from around the country.

“We’ve spent a lot of time, for example, looking at Los Angeles County and what they've done with their beaches,” Lightfoot said before noting her biggest challenges. “For us, it's not just the beach. It's not just the lakefront path. It's not just the parks that are adjacent to it, and the golf courses, so there's a lot that goes into our consideration of how we open this back up.”

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