ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS) — There was a business boom this Sunday thanks to summerlike weather and improved COVID-19 metrics – with Chicagoans out in big numbers for a boost that many restaurants desperately need.
As CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reported, restaurant owners hope this amounts to a taste of what’s to come.READ MORE: 1 Killed, 9 Wounded In Weekend Shootings In Chicago
The weather on Sunday, with temperatures climbing into the 80s, made for larger crowds outside. Meanwhile, relaxed restrictions also made it possible for more people to be inside.
Both things have restaurant owners feeling like they’re taking one more step forward, even though there’s a long way to go.
Saavedra visited Hey Nonny Live Music + Local Kitchen, at 10 S. Vail Ave. in Arlington Heights. In one of the surest signs of pandemic improvement, live music at Hey Nonny was back on Sunday.
“It has been nonstop creative adjustments,” said Chip Brooks, who owns Hey Nonny along with Chris Dungan.
“It’s so fantastic to have people indoors,” Dungan said.
Hey Nonny was having one of its best weekends in a long time this weekend. Their crowd for jazz brunch was both outside and in, thanks to relaxed COVID-19 mitigations in suburban Cook County.
As of Friday, indoor dining is allowed at 50 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller. And that is pretty perfect timing, with a few days of gorgeous weather and more people vaccinated – ready to get out.
“I think everybody has said that they’ve seen just a great turnout this spring,” Dungan said, “and people have really seen an uptick in business.”READ MORE: Bo, The Obama Family Dog And 'Best Friend', Dies After Battle With Cancer
The City of Chicago is also at 50 percent indoor capacity – and that has helped, said Pat Doerr with the Hospitality Business Association of Chicago.
“From mitigations and regulatory-wise, when we were just coming out of the indoor ban, we’re way better off,” Doerr said.
But when it comes to the city, he says a real rebound is not possible without regaining tourism.
“I’m actually doing this from a large downtown restaurant with exactly patrons inside and a half-empty sidewalk café, and we’re surrounded by hotels and two blocks from our Riverwalk,” Doerr said via Zoom. “so there is clearly a lot of work to be done to rebuild the demands for the entire hospitality industry – especially downtown.”
Back out in the suburbs, they agree getting back to where they were pre-pandemic will take more than a few nice weekends – but things are better than they’ve been.
“It’s just one of those things that we think that our business is just going to pick up every single month moving forward,” Dungan said.
And after the last year, that is a win.
“To be open and to be able to do all this means that we can do what we do and bring live music to everybody,” Brooks added.MORE NEWS: Leroy Long Charged With Shooting On Dan Ryan Expressway Near 87th Street
Cook County’s Department of Public Health says it not just the decline of covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths that led to them relaxing these restrictions. It is also because more than 50 percent of residents 16 and up have now had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.