CHICAGO (CBS) — On the heels of the first test of the city’s “Make Way For Dining” program to expand outdoor eating space in some parts of the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned that the city could close some restaurants if they don’t make sure customers are following social distancing rules.
“I understand there’s a lot of enthusiasm on the part of restaurants and patrons to get back out to enjoy the great restaurant scene here in Chicago, but we absolutely have to do that abiding by the rules and regulations that we put in place around social distancing, wearing masks,” she said Monday morning.
Over the weekend, the city closed a stretch of Broadway in Lakeview to allow more than 30 restaurants to expand patio seating into the street.
It was the first test of the city’s effort to expand outdoor dining options on six streets this summer, in a bid to keep people safe while dining al fresco during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the first weekend of the program proved popular, and most people appeared to wear masks while waiting for a table, some people were seen walking down Broadway without masks, and ignoring the six-foot distance requirement.
Lightfoot said the city will be in regular contact with restaurants taking part in the program to make sure they’re following the rules, as the program prepares to expand beyond Lakeview.
“Where we see that those rules are not being followed, we’re not going to hesitate to talk, initially; and if the talk doesn’t work, then start fining the restaurants, and if necessary close them down,” Lightfoot said. “We all have to remember COVID-19 hasn’t magically gone away because of the events of the last two weeks. It is absolutely very much part of our present, and whether we continue to make progress – as we have over these last 10 weeks – depends upon people still adhering to the social distancing rules.”
Since June 3, restaurants in Chicago have been allowed to serve food at sidewalk cafes, patios, and other outdoor areas, but indoor dining is still prohibited, at least until the next phase of reopening the economy.
The mayor said it would be foolish for people to go out in public without keeping a safe distance from others, or wearing a mask in group settings, particularly when dining out, just because the weather is finally turning sunny and warm.
“We’re going to continue to preach that gospel, because it’s absolutely necessary to keep people safe, and it’s our expectation that those restaurants will adhere to this guidance. It makes sense for the public, it makes sense for their workers, and we’re going to insist that happen, or we’re not going to see other restaurants come online,” Lightfoot said.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said last week that the city is on track to move to Phase 4 of the reopening plan by July 1. The mayor said she doesn’t want to see a surge in COVID-19 cases as Chicago reopens as has been seen in other parts of the country, so people need to remember to keep following public health guidance such as wearing masks in public, and maintaining social distancing as much as possible.
“If you look at other states across the country who didn’t have the stringent stay-at-home rules that we did, who opened up way too quickly without guidance, what we’re seeing in every single one of those states is a huge surge in cases, and some of them are actually reporting the highest incidents of new cases that they’ve had this entire year, because they did not manage the reopening correctly,” she added.