December 3, 2020

Chicago bans indoor service at bars, imposes business curfew of 10 p.m. as coronavirus cases rise

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CHICAGO — Chicago will face additional coronavirus restrictions starting Friday including a ban on indoor service at bars which don’t serve food and a business curfew of 10 p.m., Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday, as the number of COVID-19 cases rises in the city.

Earlier this week, Lightfoot warned some “Phase Three” restrictions could be brought back if the city entered a second surge of COVID-19 cases. 

“We are no doubt whatsoever in the second surge,” Lightfoot said Thursday. “Since we made that announcement four days ago, our city’s daily COVID case rate has now surged and reached over 640 cases on average a day.”

Health officials say the numbers in Chicago are near where the city was back in May,  so they’re rolling back some reopening plans. Here’s what that will look like, starting Friday: 

  • Non-essential businesses will close at 10 p.m. 
  • Alcohol sales will stop at 9 p.m.
  • Bars, breweries and taverns without a food license can’t offer indoor service
  • Suggested limits on group sizes to six people or less
  • Face coverings worn in both indoor and outdoor public settings

The complete restrictions are available on the city’s website

“The rapid rise we’re experiencing in COVID-19 cases across all demographics, ZIP codes and age groups is consistent with what public health experts and responsible leaders have been predicting for months,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

There’s a general feeling of “here we go again” among bar and restaurant employees in Chicago as they adjust their operations at what feels to them like the last minute Thursday.

At Corridor Brewery and Provisions, the strategy has been to stay ahead of the restrictions and anticipate what’s next. So this latest round only moves up their last call for liquor by a half an hour.

“We kind of feel like we’ve been adjusting almost to the dot daily; it’s been a lot. We’re always just rolling with the changes,” said Cambree Willford, Corridor Brewery and Provisions.

With a 7-day COVID-19 test positivity rate of 7% on the horizon, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said even more restrictions could come if the city hits the state’s “failsafe” level of 8% for three days straight.  

“We’re taking these steps now, they go into effect tomorrow, but if we need to take more steps and move back into Phase 3 or even going back to shelter in place I’m not going to hesitate to do that,” Arwady said.

Health experts said studies have shown bar and restaurant patrons are more at risk for COVID-19 transmission on multiple fronts, including an increased likelihood they’re meeting with people who are not part of their household. Many of the new cases reported in Chicago are also among young people who frequent bars.

“Naturally sort of fun, loud environment of bars is one of the reasons they’re a higher risk factor than restaurants,” Arwady said.

At Lange’s Bar on Southport, Phil Jachim says many customers come in with the same question: “they ask about the masks – can we take the masks off? Yeah, spread out enough, not a problem.”

Since Lange’s doesn’t have outdoor seating, Jachim says they would have to rely on selling drinks to-go. But instead, he said:  “We’ll probably close down.”

If Chicago sees stable or decreased numbers in the next two weeks, city officials say they will lift the added restrictions. But in order to get there, health officials say we need to go back to the basics: mask up, social distance, and wash your hands.

Health experts say suggested limits on gatherings are meant to decrease the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as well.

“There is a 30% chance that someone in a group of 25 people has COVID-19, there’s a 50% chance that someone in a group of 50 people has COVID-19,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.