Gov. Pritzker authorizes restaurants to operate open air seating beginning May 29

Gov. Pritzker authorizes restaurants to operate open air seating beginning May 29
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Gov. Pritzker authorizes restaurants to operate open-air seating beginning May 29

Restaurants and bars will be permitted beginning May 29 to provide open-air seating to customers as long as tables are at least six feet apart. The idea has been circulating among legislators who have been working to find ways to ease the burden that the coronavirus has had on businesses in Illinois. Pritzker’s idea was welcomed by businesses. The governor urged local municipalities to accommodate the service of restaurants and bars.

By Ray Hanania

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday morning that restaurants will be allowed to open out-door seating service beginning May 29, an idea that has bene circulating among members of The Illinois Legislature for many weeks.

Until now, restaurants have been forced to close to public dining but could offer food orders for pick-up and delivery.

Under the Governor’s new order, Phase 3 will permit bars and restaurants the option to resume operations for outdoor seating only. “Tables must be six feet apart and away from the sidewalks, masks and distancing measures for staff must continue to be followed, and other precautions and guidance will be issued,” Pritzker said.

The outdoor patio at 94 West Steak & Seafood Restaurant in Orland Park is one of thousands of restaurants that will benefit from Gov. Pritzker's new plan to allow outdoor food service

The outdoor patio at 94 West Steak & Seafood Restaurant in Orland Park is one of thousands of restaurants that will benefit from Gov. Pritzker’s new plan to allow outdoor food service

“These measures will allow restaurants to re-open at a risk comparable to other outdoor activities, while giving the state’s hospitality industry a much-needed boost. Municipalities are encouraged to help restaurants and bars expand their outdoor seating options.”
 
To date, Illinois has delivered over $14 million in small business grants averaging $20,000 to 699 bars, restaurants, and hotels across 270 individual cities in Illinois.

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The Governor’s announcement came less than 48 hours after Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau declared he would allow restaurants to provide outdoor seating, claiming the idea was initiated by his administration. Citing the idea, the Village board voted 6 to 1 to threaten a lawsuit against the state if the coronavirus restrictions are not eased by the end of the month.

Critics said Pekau was “grandstanding,” or maybe was just “confused.”

While Pekau was falsely asserting this as an original idea during Monday’s board meeting, it was actually first suggested by the Village of Hinsdale two weeks earlier. That fact was reported by the Chicago Tribune on May 6, 2020, long before Pekau tried to make the announcement a cornerstone of how Orland Park was helping local businesses.

The expansion to out-door seating is a part of Pritzker’s Five-Phase plan called “Restore Illinois.” The phases are:

  • Phase 1 (Rapid Spread): Strict stay at home and social distancing guidelines are put in place, and only essential businesses remain open.
  • Phase 2 (Flattening): Non-essential retail stores reopen for curb-side pickup and delivery. Illinoisans are directed to wear a face covering when outside the home and can begin enjoying additional outdoor activities like golf, boating, and fishing while practicing social distancing.
  • Phase 3 (Recovery): Manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops, and salons can reopen to the public with capacity and other limits and safety precautions. Gatherings of up to 10 people allowed.
  • Phase 4 (Revitalization): Gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed, restaurants and bars reopen under safety guidance from IDPH, and childcare and schools reopen under guidance from IDPH.
  • Phase 5 (Illinois Restored): The Illinois economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing.

“This is extremely important that we can finally get to seat people outside of our restaurant. It is a start and we look forward to the day when we can fully open,” said Bryan Sord, the owner of one of Orland Park’s most successful restaurants, 94 West Steak and Seafood at 15410 So. 94th Avenue in Orland Park.

“Business has been terrible since the virus restrictions were imposed but we offer carryout and delivery through online food services like Grubhub.”

Sord said the public can call 708-364-9494 to place food orders for pickup. Sord also said his restaurant is looking to hire employees to work at the restaurant urging them to apply in person at the restaurant, wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing. For more information on 94 West visit their Facebook Page by clicking here.

Many other businesses have found ingenious ways, with the support of their municipalities, to observe the state’s social distancing guidelines and restrictions such as Mama Luigi’s Restaurant located in Bridgeview which provided entertainment from their rooftop while delivering food to the audience which enjoyed the music from the cars in the restaurant’s parking lot on Saturday night May 16, 2020.

Mama Luigi's Hosted a roof-top concert for attendees who watched from cars in their parking lot. Attendees purchased food from the restaurant which was delivered to the vehicles during the concert.

Mama Luigi’s Hosted a roof-top concert for attendees who watched from cars in their parking lot. Attendees purchased food from the restaurant which was delivered to the vehicles during the concert.

Here is Pritzker’s Press Release on easing restrictions of restaurants and bars:

Building on a robust, statewide effort to ensure Illinois can safely reopen and following the data, science, and guidance from public health experts and stakeholders across the state, Governor Pritzker announced updates to Phase 3 of the state’s Restore Illinois plan.
 
“We are by no means out of the woods, but directionally, things are getting better. And because of these advances, we are able to make some modifications to allow more activity during Phase 3 of our reopening plan Restore Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker.

“Our mission has always been to get people back to work, get students back to school and return to as much normalcy as possible without jeopardizing the health and safety of Illinoisans.”
 
In the coming days, the state and IDPH will be issuing formal industry-specific guidance, particularly around workplaces and childcare, for business owners and employees in these and other sectors.

 Bars and Restaurants

With Phase 3, bars and restaurants will have the option to resume operations for outdoor seating only. Tables must be six feet apart and away from the sidewalks, masks and distancing measures for staff must continue to be followed, and other precautions and guidance will be issued.
 
These measures will allow restaurants to re-open at a risk comparable to other outdoor activities, while giving the state’s hospitality industry a much-needed boost.
 
Municipalities are encouraged to help restaurants and bars expand their outdoor seating options.
 
To date, the administration has delivered over $14 million in small business grants averaging $20,000 to 699 bars, restaurants, and hotels across 270 individual cities in Illinois.

Outdoor Activities

With the start of phase 3, all state parks will reopen on May 29.  All concession will reopen as well under guidelines set for our retail and food service businesses in Phase 3. Illinois will permit the re-opening of indoor and outdoor tennis facilities with Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) safety precautions and capacity limits.
 
For golf, in Phase 3, courses can allow foursomes out on the same tee times. Carts will also be permitted with one person per cart, or one immediate household per cart.
 
With the new ten person gathering limit for all activities in Phase 3, boating or camping with up to ten people will be permitted.
 
The state will be providing guidance on how other outdoor recreational businesses, such as driving ranges, outdoor shooting ranges, and paintball courses can safely open their doors in Phase 3.

Health Clubs, Retail, and Personal Care Services

In Phase 3, health clubs, gyms, and fitness studios can provide one-on-one personal training in indoor facilities and outdoor fitness classes of up to ten people.
 
Personal care services, like nail salons, tattoo shops, hair braiders, spas and barbershops, can open with IDPH safety precautions and capacity limits.
 
And all retail stores can open their doors to in-person shopping with IDPH safety precautions and capacity limits in place.
 
Local governments retain the right to establish stricter restrictions in any areas.

“The Governor’s action to allow for expanded outdoor dining options will benefit many restaurants at a time when every dollar counts and provides a glimmer of light at the end of this long, COVID-19 tunnel. Innovative outdoor dining strategies extend a lifeline – restoring jobs and offering guests the hospitality experience they’ve been missing while prioritizing public health and safety. Outdoor dining will not help every restaurant, but it is a constructive step in the right direction,” said Sam Toia, President & CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

“The Allied Golf Associations of Illinois are grateful that we had the opportunity to collaborate with the Governor’s office to propose safely lifting some of the restrictions that had been in place for golf.  The Phase 3 changes will allow more people to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of the game, and do so in a way that is safe for both golfers and facility staff,” said Carrie Williams, Executive Director of the Illinois PGA and Illinois PGA Foundation.

Ray Hanania

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