CHICAGO (CBS) — Lakefront restaurants have struggled with different reopening rules than other restaurants in the city, even though they could be better situated for social distancing than many of the bars and restaurants that have been open for months. At Castaways on North Avenue Beach, workers finally welcomed back customers Friday for the first time this summer. With beached closed indefinitely, they are worried that they will be forgotten.
It has been a summer of false stops and starts for lakefront restaurants like Shore Club at North Avenue Beach. There were given several different start dates.
“June 22, June 26, July 1, July 6 after the Fourth of July weekend, July 10, the 15th, the 24th,” said Shore Club managing partner Lisa Jaroscak.
The official green light didn’t come until this week, even though the rest of the city opened up for outdoor dining on June 3, and the lakefront trail opened up more than six weeks ago.
The Shore Club has 12,000 square feet, completely outdoors.
“It felt like it was contradicting what they were saying, what is best for the environment for social distancing,” said Jaroscak.
About 100 yards down the path. Castaways was in the same boat, too.
“We just weren’t allowed to open up out here until today,” said Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants CFO Steven Hartenstein. “We didn’t have permission to.”
Hartenstein said he completely understands the need to prioritize health and safety, but he says they have been ready and waiting for months. And opening day Friday comes after missing out on a huge portion of their summer sales during a season with better than average weather.
“We had many many days that we lost and many, many millions of dollars that we’ve lost not being able to be open,” he said.
His group asked the city to allow fenced in, socially-distanced dining on the beach, but it was denied. He is hoping the city might reconsider.
“It’s even good without the alcohol,” he said.
Still, Hartenstein and his employees are grateful for Friday’s opening. With significantly lower pedestrian volume on the lakefront trail, he just hopes Chicagoans remember that they are there.
“Because the beach has been closed, we have this stigma of being the beach, but in some sense is to our advantage. But yeah, they forgot we exist and there’s no better place to social distance,” he said.
There was still no indication Friday night if the beaches will reopen at all this summer. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reached out to the city about that proposal to include socially-distanced dining options on the sand. CBS 2 asked if it would ever be an option down the road but had not received a response Friday evening.
For a lot of these places it is weather permitting, but Castaways said they will try to go as far after Labor Day as they can to make up for lost time.
As for the expanded outdoor dining permits now being issued by the city, those are good for up to six months, as long as the restaurant follows all rules and guidelines.