Restaurants and bars hoping to move up their reopening timetable got some welcome news on Wednesday as Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that businesses would be able to reopen with outdoor seating, and several communities already have plans in place to maximize the opportunity to bring in more customers.
According to the governor, restaurants and bars will be allowed to open outdoor seating areas beginning at the start of Phase Three of the “Restore Illinois” plan. Numerous restrictions will be enforced, including keeping tables six feet apart and requiring servers to wear masks, but the change is welcome news to many owners.
Now, plans in communities like Burr Ridge and Arlington Heights could become the new standard as businesses hope to open up outdoor seating areas in order to welcome their customers back.
In Burr Ridge, restaurant owner Gigi Rovito says that his business was struggling with the restrictions the state had in place.
“The bills are adding up with no money coming in. It’s very hard for us right now,” Rovito said.
Mayor Gary Grasso already had a plan in the works to allow for outdoor seating before Pritzker’s announcement, but is pleased about the new rule changes.
"The Governor is finally doing what many mayors have been telling him - Illinois has to open safely and cautiously with strong warnings to those 60 and older of the greater risks of Covid-19 to them," he said. "Outdoor gathering is safer and warranted by the flattening of the curve. Illinoisans want to get outside and socialize at their favorite bars and restaurants - safely and cautiously."
Restaurants will be allowed to open seating areas in parking lots. Tables will be placed six feet apart, as per the Illinois Department of Public Health Requirements, but there will be no servers.
“I think it would be a better opportunity for me to have tables out here for all my customers, to pick up the food, to sit down and enjoy their food,” Rovito said.
Meanwhile, Arlington Heights’ new program, dubbed “Arlington Alfresco,” will also look to take advantage of the new policies.
Under the plan, some streets would be closed to allow for expanded outdoor seating areas for restaurants, according to city officials. Tables could also be placed on sidewalks, and will also be placed six feet apart in accordance with state guidelines.
All of Illinois is currently on pace to move to Phase Three of the reopening plan by the end of this month.