Seeing the setbacks in reopening restaurants elsewhere in the country, public officials and industry leaders in Illinois are wielding both a carrot and a stick to keep the state and local areas on their schedules for lifting service limits.
Chicago announced on the eve of the July 4th holiday weekend that it would start socking places licensed to sell alcohol with $10,000 fines for failing to follow anti-COVID safety measures. Places will also be immediately shut down for failure to comply with such fundamental rules as requiring guests and employees to wear face masks, requiring guests to remain seated during their visits and not halting drink service by 11 p.m.
“We do not want to close restaurants and bars…but we will if we don’t see compliance,” civic officials warned in announcing the new sanctions. “The time for education is over.”
Offenders will be sought out by the Chicago Police Department and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Restaurant Association began a social media awareness campaign over the weekend that encourages restaurants and guests to preserve the recent rollbacks of service limitations imposed in March. The effort focuses on the importance of wearing face masks and observing fundamental social distancing practices, such as keeping six feet apart from other parties.
The association encouraged members to post this message, as is or customized, on social media: "We cannot allow our restaurants and bars to slide backward, as we’ve seen happen in other states. Let’s all stay safe and keep our businesses open! I urge fellow operators and restaurant-goers to strictly follow local and state public safety guidelines. Wear your mask, keep social distancing, follow occupancy rules and ensure compliance.”
An accompanying graphic shows two mask-wearing depictions of consumers, with the headline, “Covered faces keep open places.”
Both an English and a Spanish version of the graphic is being provided by the association.
Under the current phase of Chicago’s reopening plan, places can offer indoor dining for up to 50 people or 25% of an establishment’s legal capacity limit, whichever is lower. Customers are required to remain seated rather than roam through the interior, as they might have done in a bar before the pandemic. Dancing is prohibited, as is ordering multiple drinks per person before the 11 p.m. cutoff on alcohol sales.
Among the nation’s 10 most populous cities, Chicago is the only one that has not seen the reopening of its restaurants delayed or reversed because of concerns about a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. New York City was halted from reopening its dining rooms today, and indoor dining was discontinued in Los Angeles. Most of California’s major cities are located within the 19 counties that were ordered by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week to suspend indoor table service.
Early media reports indicate that many states continued to see the gross disregard for recommended or required anti-coronavirus measures over the July 4th weekend.