In a surprise and undoubtedly welcome move, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Friday afternoon announced an expansion of the city’s Outdoor Dining Program that will allow taverns without a retail food license to operate temporarily on the sidewalk area in front of their establishment.
This offers some relief to bars and taverns affected most severely by the mayor’s recent rule rollback, which banned indoor service to bars lacking a food license.
Under the expanded program, bars may set up outdoor tables, enclosed by barriers (as is required of sidewalk cafes) and leaving at least 6 feet of pedestrian clearance. In addition, bars must identify a “partner food establishment” to ensure that food is available to bar customers.
“While we’ve had to implement restrictions and take hard measures to combat a recent rise COVID-19 activity, we will continue to ensure our restaurants, bars and businesses have the supports they need to survive during these unprecedented times,” said Mayor Lightfoot in a statement. “Our innovative Outdoor Dining Program has already helped more than 250 restaurants and bars in our communities, and now by expanding our efforts to better support our bars impacted by these new restrictions, we are providing a lifeline to hundreds of local establishments across Chicago’s neighborhoods.”
In addition, establishments holding a retail food license will be able to operate in outdoor areas — such as courtyards, terraces or patios — without securing an outdoor patio license, which ordinarily would be required. Though temporary, this move will relieve restaurants and bars with food licenses from the lengthy and onerous outdoor patio license process.
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