Bars that haven’t been able to seat customers indoors since late July will be able to welcome them back, too, but still at 25 percent capacity (or a maximum 50 people, whichever is fewer). Customers must still stay seated and can stay for no longer than two hours, but closing time will be extended until 1:30 a.m. The cutoff for alcohol sales at grocery or liquor stores is still 9 p.m.
“Every little bit helps. We’re moving in the right direction,” says Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association. Toia, who had been pushing for 50 percent capacity, hopes that restrictions will further relax as soon as Halloween if COVID-19 numbers continue trending down.
In a press release, the city says improved health metrics allow for the adjustment. The city’s seven-day rolling average positivity rate is 4.3 percent, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. That’s down from 4.5 percent the week before and below the target positivity rate of 5 percent. The seven-day average of daily cases is 299, down from the roughly 350 daily cases the city saw in August. The city says in a press release that hospitalizations from COVID are “lower than they’ve been since March.”
“Overall, we are heading in the right direction, and this affords us an opportunity to further re-open the city and to do so gradually and safely,” CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady said in the release. “But I can’t emphasize this enough: Chicagoans need to continue to follow the public health guidance—wearing masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home when sick—or we risk falling back and experiencing another rise in cases.”
Arwady told reporters today that the steady 28-day decrease in cases and positivity means the city can move ahead cautiously. If numbers stabilize or continue downward, the city might be able to increase capacity above 50 people, bring it to 50 percent, and/or increase party sizes above six.
Asked the status of Chicago Public Schools potentially converting to a hybrid model after its next quarter ends in November, Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters today that “We’re not there yet. We have to make those decisions in the next few weeks.”
The maximum group size for fitness classes and after-school programming will increase from 10 to 15 people. Facials, shaves and other personal services that require the removal of face coverings will be allowed again as well.
A few new protocols are in place for businesses that welcome more customers: unless actively eating or drinking, diners have to wear face coverings while seated. No orders will be taken at the bar, only at seats. Businesses must offer hand sanitizer to customers upon entry. When taking reservations and seating walk-in customers, restaurants and bars should retain customer phone numbers or emails for possible contact tracing. And those who provide personal services—such as barbers or spa workers—must keep their masks on at all times and limit maskless services including facials or shaves to 15 minutes.
The city released outdoor dining guidance to restaurants last week, which would allow for tents or globes on the public way for the first time. Updated reopening guidelines can be found at Chicago.gov/reopening.
Greg Hinz contributed.