Outdoor Seating For Bars And Restaurants Will Be Part Of Next Reopening Phase

May 20, 2020

Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Wednesday announced bars and restaurants can serve customers outside once the state takes the next step in his Restore Illinois plan.

They will still have to follow certain guidelines aimed at protecting patrons and staff.  

"With the right restrictions: tables six feet apart and away from the sidewalks, masks and distancing measures for staff and other precautions. The experts believe that these services can open at a risk comparable to other outdoor activities and give our hospitality industry a much needed boost, as they work to keep their businesses on their feet during this terrible crisis," Pritzker said.

Restore Illinois shows the state now in Phase Two, but a change could occur on May 29. Pritzker Wednesday reiterated all of Illinois appears on track to move on to Phase Three at that time.

Pritzker ordered bars and restaurants to close indoor dining and gathering more than two months ago.  Restaurants have been allowed to do curbside and delivery since then.  

Sam Toia, President of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said this change will help a hard hit industry. "Today's announcement provides a glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel."

Toia rattled off numbers that showed nearly half of the state's restaurants are shuttered and business overall is down as much as 80-percent.

"Let's close down the streets. Let's expand sidewalk cafes that use parking lots and public ways. Let's show the world how innovative Illinois can be," said Toia. The governor said he encourages local communities to find ways to accommodate the outdoor dining option.

Indoor seating would still be prohibited until at least late June.

More Reopenings Announced

Pritzker said the target date of May 29 will also likely see the opening of all state parks. Most reopened earlier in May, but a few of the most visited have been kept closed.

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. All retail stores can open their doors to in-person shopping with safety precautions and capacity limits.

Additional Phase Three openings will include indoor and outdoor tennis facilities. On golf courses, foursomes will be allowed to play on the same tee times. Boating and camping with up to ten people will be permitted. The governor says the state will provide guidance soon on how other recreational businesses, such as driving ranges, outdoor shooting ranges, and paintball courses can safely open.

Enforcement Rule Withdrawn, New Approach Expected

Governor J.B. Pritzker has withdrawn an emergency rule that would have subjected businesses opening in violation of the state's stay-at-home order to a misdemeanor.

But now lawmakers could consider a different plan

Senator Bill Cunningham (D, Chicago) is working on legislation that would include fines for those business owners who ignore restrictions.

"We think it's appropriate that we deal with this problem through the regular legislative order and that's what we are committed to doing this week," he said. Cunningham offered no details on fine amounts and said that is still being worked out.

Pritzker ran into opposition from both lawmakers and business owners over his original emergency rule that was filed last week. He said those who open their doors and ignore the rules are putting their communities at risk.

But the governor, speaking to reporters in his Springfield office, said he doesn't want to withdraw a business license or take other onerous action. "A business that chooses not to follow the rules can recover from a fine. It is much more expensive to deal with being stripped of a license or forced to close," he said.

"Enacting this measure through legislation will allow us to have these tools through our the Restore Illinois plan, versus an emergency rule that would be withdrawn and rewritten at the start of phase three and then phase four."

The governor said if lawmakers don't follow through, he'll introduce a new emergency rule.