CHICAGO (CBS) — Despite Governor JB Pritzker’s announcement that restaurants will soon be able to open in Illinois as part of the COVID-19 Phase 3 plan, there’s been a major blow to Chicago restaurant owners: they won’t be opening in May according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“We’re close but we’re not there yet,” Lightfoot said. “We are hard at work looking at ways to get our restaurant industry back up. I was heartened by what the governor said yesterday, but again got to do it safely.”READ MORE: 16-Year-Old Charged In 2 Carjackings In Chicago's Douglas Neighborhood
At this time Wednesday, restaurant owners were eagerly looking forward to reopening next week.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole has reaction from restaurant owners. They say it’s a huge let down for Chicago’s restaurant community, which was already spacing out tables and calling back staff.
But Mayor Lightfoot has the power to place outdoor dining on hold in the city.
“This morning I call my staff and my crew telling them we were opening next week. We measured everything six feet apart just to start,” said Ciro Longobardo of Piccolo Sogno Restaurant. He was making plans to turn a corner in the COVID-19 crisis. “We were putting tables out ready to go all exciting and now we find out we can’t”
Mayor Lightfoot said COVID 19 is still with us, and she needs to make sure that restaurants can make a commitment to keep both employees and guests safe for outdoor dining.
She said she has been in close contact with leaders in the city’s restaurant community, conversations that continue, and they are close to knowing what should be in place for this kind of a reopening, but they are not there yet even though the public may be.READ MORE: Larry Scott, 32 Charged In May 1 Murder Of Travis Willis In West Pullman
“We have to be able to make sure employees and staff are safe,” the mayor said.
“You cannot believe how many phone calls I got between Wednesday and this morning from people making reservations,” said Longobardo.
Illinois restaurants are reeling, sales are down 80% and any kind of limited opening say owners could make a huge difference. And they are ready to take precautions like distanced tables and limited outdoor seating. But if the wait to reopen, even slowly goes on much longer, restaurant owners worry many won’t survive.
“I strongly believe we cannot hold anymore. We are really struggling,” Longobardo said.
And so for Chicago’s restaurant community, the wait goes on, even though their counterparts in other communities can continue to make plans to reopen outdoors next week.
Lightfoot did offer some positive news. She said she’s in talks with aldermen in various neighborhoods about closing down streets and making them venues for outdoor dining with nearby sidewalks.MORE NEWS: While Learning Remotely, Northwest Suburban Band Class Project Spanned The Country
The mayor said she hopes soon, sometime in June, the city will be ready to open restaurants and bars.