CHICAGO (CBS) — The city just released guidelines for fall and winter dining, but they won’t come cheap.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina checked in Monday night with bar and restaurant owners facing more uncertainty and costs to stay open.

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Some bars and restaurants have already made the investment in commercial heaters or outdoor structures. Others aren’t sure it’s worth it, wondering how many people will actually eat and drink outside during a Chicago winter.

Snuggled at the end of North Jefferson Street, the Jefferson Tap & Grille in the Fulton River District prides itself as a neighborhood watering hole of nearly 20 years.

“Our model is about 70 percent booze and wine and beer,” said owner Jodi Agee.

But with business cut in half since the start of the pandemic, Agee is doing everything in her power to keep the door open.

“I came out of pocket, out of my savings,” she said.

She has invested more than $40,000.

“Reducing staff was hard enough,” Agee said. “To tell the chef he didn’t have a job? I couldn’t do it.”

But with a temperature drop on the horizon, she said, “I’m worried about December and January.”


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Agee is not the only owner worried and unsure how they’ll make it with a 25 percent capacity limit inside. Bars and restaurants across Chicago are considering the city’s new fall and winter outdoor dining guidelines, and the bill that will come along with them.

There are special requirements for any outdoor structure. Outdoor heaters alone come at a cost.

“They’re at least $500 a piece,” Agee said.

And there is no guarantee the Jefferson Tap & Grille or any other restaurant will recoup any of the money spent to serve customers.

Agee is lucky enough to have a friend in the industry loaning her four heaters, coupled with plans for hot drinks and menu items – including a creamy caramel hot chocolate drink.

She said for now, all they can do is hope that’s enough.

“It’s really one month at a time,” Agee said.

The city’s guidelines for winter outdoor dining released Monday are as follows in the document below:

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We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

Tara Molina