These are tough instances for Chicago hospitality employees and enterprise house owners. Yesterday Governor J.B. Pritzker introduced that he’s fully banning indoor restaurant and bar service in Chicago resulting from quickly rising COVID-19 case numbers. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who herself prohibited indoor service for bars with out retail kitchens final week, is currently trying to change his mind.
Regardless of the final result of that effort, it’s clear that having the ability to present socially-distanced outdoor service in more and more chilly climate goes to be key for serving to hospitality enterprise survive this extraordinarily difficult interval. Public well being specialists additionally say it’s a lot safer to dine and drink outdoors than indoors throughout this airborne respiratory pandemic, offered that there’s satisfactory airflow. Options can embody seating in tents with a number of sides open, plus house heaters.
Whereas this summer season’s Cafe Streets program, which fully pedestrianized dozens of roadways to make room for outside seating, was hugely successful, town hasn’t indicated that shall be a factor through the winter. So what can companies do in the event that they wish to present outside seating, ideally partially sheltered and heated, however they don’t have a patio, parking zone, or satisfactory sidewalk house?
A number of Chicago bars and eating places have solved this downside by utilizing on-street parking areas to facilitate outside service. And I’m guessing that many extra would go this route in the event that they knew that the approval course of isn’t as complicated or as costly as one may guess.
It’s potential to place the seating itself within the parking lane. Rogers Park Social, a cocktail park within the metropolis’s northeastern-most neighborhood, currently is a good example of that setup.
However a number of companies in Lakeview have gone a special route, putting in outside giant seating areas that occupy your entire sidewalk in entrance of their companies, after which utilizing obstacles to create an alternate route for pedestrians within the parking lane. Ramps are put in to accommodate folks utilizing wheelchairs, pushing strollers, and so forth.
Clearly it’s not an excellent state of affairs, because it requires pedestrians make a detour. But when the format doesn’t trigger a serious inconvenience for folks with mobility challenges, I don’t see a serious downside with this method. The Energetic Transportation Alliance and the native incapacity rights group Entry Dwelling didn’t reply to requests for feedback on the topic by press time.
The Lakeview neighborhood has at the very least 4 companies with this format: Unusual Floor cafe at Grace and Clark streets, and Hall Brewing, Southport Grocery, and Coalfire pizzeria on Southport Avenue. The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce helped facilitate the institution of the latter three seating areas (a fourth Southport institution, Port & Park restaurant, can be concerned with doing this), so I talked to the chamber’s occasion and advertising and marketing supervisor Carisa Marconet about what sorts of bureaucratic hoops a enterprise has to undergo to make it occur. It seems they’re not particularly onerous, and the allowing value is a relative discount because of town waiving a few of the related charges.
Marconet mentioned that, assuming the enterprise has gotten approval and paid the charge to have a standard sidewalk cafe (in late July the city relaxed the rules to permit bars that don’t have kitchens to do that), getting permission for an “expanded sidewalk cafe” entails a two-step course of. First you must submit an utility to the Chicago Division of Transportation for approval of the closure of the parking lane. As soon as that’s OKed, the Chicago Division of Enterprise Affairs and Shopper Safety will approve the expanded seating.
Through the pandemic, town is waiving the extra costs for these latter two approvals, so the one allowing prices are the common cafe allow, plus a charge for utilizing Jersey obstacles to guard the pedestrian house from site visitors, Marconet mentioned. On Southport, the native Special Service Area is masking the price of the obstacles.
Whereas a few of the layouts on Southport do take up metered parking spots, Marconet mentioned town will not be requiring the companies to pay for compensating the parking contract concessionaire for misplaced income. Spokespersons from CDOT and BACP confirmed the information Marconet offered concerning the approval course of, and indicated that town is masking the true-up charge for the metered areas.
“Within the winter, [using parking lanes this way] looks as if a great way to have the ability to do outside seating with out closing the entire avenue,” Marconet mentioned. She added that the chamber will not be planning on pushing for full pedestrianization of Southport through the colder months as a result of some eating places wouldn’t have the ability to take part, since lots of them don’t already personal patio heaters, they usually’re at the moment laborious to search out and costly resulting from provide chain points.
Nonetheless, Marconet mentioned there was enthusiastic help for making Southport car-free to accommodate expanded outside eating through the hotter months. “It was nice to have the ability to have extra space for strolling and seating, and a few of the eating places bought actually artistic,” akin to adorning their cafe enclosures with flowers. She mentioned that restaurateurs instructed the chamber they had been capable of present as a lot seating outdoor as they do indoors throughout non-COVID instances, so that they had been capable of keep away from shedding workers.
The response was so constructive, Marconet mentioned the chamber desires to maintain the summer season and fall Cafe Streets program going, even after the pandemic is only a unhealthy reminiscence. “Folks simply love consuming exterior anyway in Chicago when the climate’s good.”