Cheers! Boystown bars start to reopen as Chicago moves through Phase 3

Wed. June 17, 2020 11:18 AM by Ross Forman

sidetrack's popular rooftop deck

photo credit // sidetrack

Sidetrack reopens rooftop deck and patio on Thursday

Raise your glass and get ready to enjoy Chicago's bars, lounges, taverns, and breweries once again – albeit with coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Bars that don't serve food can reopen for the first time in three months as the city moves through Phase 3 of easing COVID-19 restrictions.

Bars with outdoor areas, patios, rooftops, retractable roofs or indoor spaces where 50 percent or more of a wall can be removed are allowed to reopen.

Plus, tables must be spaced six feet apart and can accommodate only six people or less, and seating is limited to two hours. Alcohol sales must also end at 11 p.m. every night.

Patrons are encouraged to wear face masks and practice proper hand hygiene.

“We are thankful that we get to reopen,” said Brad Balof, general manager of Sidetrack, which will have its upstairs deck and street-level patio open, starting at 1 p.m.

Sidetrack customers will be seated and order from cocktail servers, Balof said, and “asked to keep their visit to two hours and wear their masks entering and exiting the bar.”

Balof added: “Please be patient as we navigate this new way of getting Sidetrack'd. Wear your mask. Stay home if you are sick.”

Paul Cannella, owner of Scarlet Bar in Boystown, admitted he was skeptical earlier this week when he started getting text messages and social media posts that Chicago bars were reopening.

“I have to be honest, and everyone needs to read into the rules and restrictions to protect their license. The bottom line is that if you don't have licensed outdoor space, or walls that have 50 percent or more of the windows that open, your bar is actually not reopening,” he said. “The city has an application for Expanded Outdoor Dining Permit (EODM). When you are registering, you must link your business to the application, and a notice will pop up stating it takes two to three weeks to link your business to the application. So I encourage anyone that has eligible outdoor space to apply ASAP. 

“Additionally, while this is great news, it's not as easy as hearing the news on Monday and opening on Wednesday. For the bars with outdoor space, or have open-air access, they two days to assemble a staff, clean, have proper sanitation protocols and supplies on hand, and you have to order liquor and beer from the distributors since most beers are now past their drink-by dates. I wish it was as easy as turning on the lights, and that it could happen for everyone, but sadly that won't be the case.”

Cannella said Mayor Lori Lightfoot's announcement earlier this week is bittersweet in many ways. Scarlet won't be the Scarlet of even four months ago.

“Running a small outdoor space under the EODM program, and having to close by 11 p.m. doesn't get me excited, but we'll give it a shot,” Cannella said.

“We're fortunate to have a small backyard that was not previously sanctioned for use, but the EODM allows small businesses to expand into approved areas. Our team has cleaned up the area, and once we feel we have the safety measures in places, supplies (safety and liquor), and staffing, we'll pull the trigger to open. 

“It's hard to make plans for a small patio space when the concept of your bar is so different.”

Scarlet was one of the top dance bars in the city last year, but now it just will have a small patio space that closes at 11 p.m. Watch for an announcement soon.

Several of the Boystown bars/restaurants already reopened when Chicago entered Phase 3 of its recovery earlier this month, including D.S. Tequila Co. (11a.m. -10 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday), Roscoe's Tavern (12 p.m. - 9 p.m. 7 daily) and Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club. Reservations are recommended.

Replay Lakeview plans to open on Friday.