Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday said she wants restaurants and bars in her city to open for indoor services as soon as possible. She plans to discuss with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on how to lift the statewide indoor dining ban.
“I am very, very focused on getting our restaurants reopened. If we look at the various criteria that the state has set, we are meeting most if not all of those,” Lightfoot said at a press conference. “So that’s a conversation that I will have with the governor. But I want to get our restaurants and our bars reopened as quickly as possible.”
She said since restaurants and bars are among the most regulated and frequently inspected businesses for sanitation, and their owners have gone “above and beyond” to ensure the safety of customers and employees, they should be safer than other places where health measures aren’t so rigorous.
“Let’s bring it out of the shadows,” Lightfoot said. “Let’s allow them to have some recreation in restaurants, in bars, where we can actually work with responsible owners and managers to regulate and protect people from COVID-19.”
In a statement to WTTW Chicago, Pritzker’s office said the governor looks forward to meeting with Lightfoot to discuss the matter, but Chicago’s recent CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus infection numbers don’t meet the requirement to resume indoor dining.
Restaurants across Illinois have been prohibited from letting patrons eating inside for more than two and a half months. Under the metrics established by Pritzker administration, a region must reduce its CCP virus infection rate to 6.5 percent before reopening for indoor dining. The rolling average in Chicago, however, has remained above 8 percent since last November.
The Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA), which represents some 25,000 bars and restaurants and their 588,000 employees, said the impact of the indoor dining restriction is devastating. It reported that catering businesses across Illinois have only been able to survive the winter by exhausting all remaining funds, laying off dedicated team members, and often permanently closing operations.
According to the group, eating and drinking venues in Illinois lost 31,000 jobs in November alone, more than any other state in the nation. It also estimated 5,000 Illinois restaurants will close permanently, leaving more than 120,000 restaurant workers out of job.
“We just want a percentage of indoor dining so we can bring our team members back to work so they can then go and buy groceries and pay their utilities and pay their rent for their family,” IRA President Sam Toia said Thursday.