Chicago restaurant owners not entirely thrilled about reopening

Illustration for article titled Chicago restaurant owners not entirely thrilled about reopening
Photo: David Livingston (Getty Images)

This Friday, June 26, Chicago restaurants are going to be allowed to reopen their indoor dining rooms. This is a week ahead of schedule, but it happens to coincide with the start of the gross part of summer when it’s no longer thrilling to be outside because the weather has gotten hot and humid and disgusting and no one wants to venture too far from air conditioning or a really good fan.


(Note: No one in any authority has actually said this, but the decision to speed up reopening was extremely abrupt, and it makes me suspicious. I’ve also spent too many summers in Chicago in un-air-conditioned apartments, when I’ve resorted to hanging out in restaurants and movie theaters or driving around aimlessly at three in the morning in order to cool off.)

There is a catch, however, because there always is: restaurants will only be able to keep their dining rooms at 25% capacity with a maximum of 50 people per room.

The reaction among restaurant owners has been mixed. Some say they can work within those restrictions. “People will still prefer sitting outside, I think, but if the weather turns bad, I won’t have to send them all home,” Michael Roper, founder of Hopleaf, a bar and restaurant in Andersonville, told the Chicago Tribune. “That is a huge advantage.”

Others think they’ll need to be at least at 50% capacity to have a chance of recouping their losses after being closed for three months. Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, told the Tribune that he would prefer a model more like California’s, where restaurants can serve as many people as they like, as long as the tables are six feet apart and everyone is wearing masks.

But, Toia told CBS-2, he estimates that 75% of restaurants won’t reopen their dining rooms at all.

Among them is Mo’s Cantina in River North. Mo’s has an 800-person capacity, but the restrictions will only allow 50 people in at a time. “If we’re going to open and just blow the money we won’t survive till the end of the year,” owner Sam Sanchez told CBS.


It’s also unclear if dining in will increase the spread of COVID-19 the way it has in Florida and other states that have already reopened or how closely Chicago restaurants will hold to the restrictions. Nobody knows anything. We are all part of a great experiment.

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.


Lurch of the SoCal

I’m sure this will all go swimmingly well. We’ve flattened the curve across the country, seen nothing but a massive downturn in cases as testing has ramped up to surpass just under a million tests a day being performed across the country in every area, have a robust contact tracing program in place to track any new cases and exposures, have a population that’s been extremely willing to abide by social distancing and mask laws, and...

Fuck, I don’t have the heart. This is insane. We’re being frogmarched directly into the second wave of the pandemic by a fucking moron who doesn’t even understand the concept of “insulin” let alone something scary like COVID. If they can’t strongarm compliant governors into reopening, they’re trying to cut off any aid or support for someone who stays closed out of concern for the rapidly swelling return of COVID - and the GOP’s been pretty consistent that they’re not allowing another shutdown to occur under Trump’s watch (guess they’ll be demanding it the moment Biden’s sworn in).

Until such point as a vaccination and treatment exist and are widely available, we’re on a suicidal course with a disease that STILL CAUSES WIDESPREAD PERMANENT ORGAN DAMAGE IN VICTIMS THAT WE CANNOT STOP OR EVEN EFFECTIVELY SLOW DUE 100% TO GOP POLITICAL IDIOCY.