Chicago indoor dining gets another increase in COVID-19 capacity rules

Wed. February 17, 2021 7:29 AM by Gerald Farinas

photo credit // dan gold on unsplash
Chicago, Ill. - The Chicago public health department increased the number of people allowed in restaurants and bars, effective immediately on Tuesday. Indoor establishments will be allowed to host 40% capacity or a maximum of 50 people, whichever is less.

This is an expansion of previous guidance, setting limits to 35% capacity or a maximum of 50 people, whichever is less. On January 23, limits were set at 25% or a maximum of 25 people, whichever is less.

Chicago recorded an average of 400 new COVID-19 cases per day for the last three days. This reset the risk level for the entire city based on four measurements.

According to those measurements—number of COVID-19 cases per day, number of COVID-19 tests turning up positive, number of emergency room visits caused by the novel coronavirus, and number of intensive care unit beds occupied by pandemic patients—Chicago is now rated at a moderate risk level. Testing positivity rates went down to 3.6%, which is at the low risk level.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was excited about the measurements but warned that people must remain vigilant with testing, masking, and social distancing.

Lightfoot said, “I want to remind all our businesses and residents that we are not out of the woods yet. Only by committing to what we know works will we be able to continue moving forward carefully and responsibly.”

Not all indoor venues can open, even with this guidance. Restaurants and bars must maintain eligibility.

Bars without a food license, for example, can open if they offer food delivery direct-to-table from other restaurants.

Tables must only accommodate six persons per table.

There must be social distancing between tables, and between persons at the bar.

Patrons must wear a mask unless actively eating or drinking.

They must remain seated—no standing customers.

Beer, wine, and spirits sales must end at 11 p.m. Restaurants and bars must close at 12 a.m.

The Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) lobbies the governor, state legislators, and municipalities for the local restaurant industry. They would like to accelerate reopening.

“The IRA continues to advocate for Chicago restaurants, bars, and event venues to be able to serve more diners safely indoors—and be allowed to have more than 50 diners per space—as quickly as possible,” they said.

IRA also hopes to see suburban Chicago follow suit.

“Cook County has not yet made an announcement that it will adopt similar measures to allow for 40% occupancy or 50 people per space at restaurants and bars. We do, however, expect the county to align with the city of Chicago.”