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Chicago lifts restaurant capacity cap, okays indoor bar service

The measures will take effect on Thursday, with certain qualifications.
Chicago Bars
Photograph: Shutterstock

Chicago is raising the capacity limit on indoor restaurant dining to 40% of interior seating or 50 people, whichever is lower, beginning Thursday at 5 a.m.

Simultaneously, bars will be permitted to resume indoor service at 25% of their pre-pandemic capacities, to a maximum of 50 customers, provided they limit visits to two hours and provide access to food by permitting deliveries from a restaurant.  Patrons must also remain seated while ordering, drinking or eating. Establishments will not be allowed to serve patrons standing at the bar.

The curfew on serving alcohol will be raised to 1 a.m., with places required to shut by 1:30.

Earlier COVID safety measures such as requiring patrons to wear face masks except while eating and drinking will remain in place, according to the announcement issued today by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Parties will still be limited to six people, for indoor or outdoor service.

The city is recommending but not requiring that restaurants and bars solicit contact info from their on-site customers to facilitate contact tracing in the event that a patron or employee tests positive for coronavirus.

Chicago is the latest jurisdiction to ease restrictions on restaurants as the pandemic moves beyond the six-month mark. Last week Florida removed virtually all dine-in restrictions on restaurants, and Indiana ended its capacity caps and a number of other operational limitations.

Ohio permitted buffets and salad bars to reopen, along with banquet and catering service for gatherings of up to 300 people. Washington had earlier okayed the resumption of business meetings, effectively restoring demand for restaurant catering sales.

New York City will allow restaurant patrons to resume dining indoors on Sept. 30, for the first time since mid-March.

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