Mayor Lightfoot Announces Further Easing of COVID-19 Regulations for Chicago Businesses

March 2, 2021

Expansion of operating hours and increased capacity to come into effect immediately; City urges diligence to ensure continued progress in the plan for a safe and cautious reopening

CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) today announced the further easing of COVID-19 regulations for Chicago businesses. Due to sustained progress in all four reopening metrics, effective immediately, indoor capacity at bars, restaurants and other businesses can increase to 50%. Additionally, bars and restaurants can now remain open until 1:00 a.m., alcohol sales from liquor stores and other establishments with a Package Goods license can now continue until 11:00 p.m. and indoor fitness class size can increase to 20 people. As part of the established roadmap for a cautious and careful reopening, other regulations will remain in place for the time being, including the capacity limit of no more than 50 people within any one space at bars, restaurants, events and other venues.  

“We have made incredible progress in recent weeks and months, and I thank our business community for their ongoing commitment to saving lives,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “I am thrilled that we have reached 50% capacity, but I again call on all of our businesses and residents to double down on what works. We must remain diligent as we continue to move forward cautiously and responsibly.”  

Under the framework released in early February, CDPH established four critical metrics that determine Chicago’s ability to move forward in the reopening plan. Today’s announcement is possible because Chicago has reached at least the “Moderate-Risk” level in all four of these metrics, and sustained that level for two weeks: 

  • COVID cases diagnosed per day: currently averaging 283, in the “Moderate-Risk” level.  
  • COVID test positivity: currently averaging 2.9%, in the “Lower-Risk” level 
  • Emergency Departments visits for COVID-like illness: currently averaging 42 per day, in the “Lower-Risk” level 
  • ICU beds occupied by COVID patients: currently averaging 103, in the “Moderate-Risk” level 

 “We have been trending in the right direction and I congratulate Chicagoans for continuing to do the right thing in helping us contain the spread of the virus,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. ”We need to keep it up so we can continue to reopen our city safely and smartly, and get back to doing the things we love.”   

Based on the progress the city has made in the established metrics, effective immediately, bars, restaurants and events can stay open for on-site service and serve alcohol until 1:00 a.m., and indoor capacity can increase to the lesser of 50% or 50 people per space. All other regulations remain in place for these establishments, including: 

  • Food must be available at all times in order to offer indoor service. This means that bars, taverns or breweries without a food license can reopen indoors as long as they partner with a food establishment so that food is available to patrons at all times (e.g., making menus available and allowing delivery, allowing patrons to order from third-party delivery services). 
  • Maximum of six patrons at indoor or outdoor tables. 
  • Patrons can sit at bars, with six feet of social distancing between parties. 
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times, except when patrons are seated and actively eating or drinking. 
  • Patrons must be seated whenever they are eating or drinking. 
  • Tables must be six feet apart. 

“Chicago restaurants are ready and eager to serve more diners safely,” said Sam Toia, President & CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association. “These updated regulations are another step in the right direction that will give needed flexibility to operators across our 77 neighborhoods, protect hospitality jobs, and allow businesses to welcome more customers back with extensive public health measures in place. We thank Mayor Lightfoot and her team for listening to the needs of the hospitality community as Chicago continues on a safe and steady path to reopening and recovery." 

Other industries, such as performance venues, health and fitness centers, movie theaters and personal services, can also increase to 50% capacity, with no more than 50 people within any one space and 20 people in indoor fitness classes. Furthermore, alcohol sales from businesses with a Package Goods license can now continue until 11:00 p.m., a two-hour extension from the 9:00 p.m. curfew that has been in effect since April. In adhering to standard public health practice, additional easing of regulations will be considered if Chicago sustains existing risk levels for at least two weeks following this announcement. More information on Chicago’s plan for cautious reopening will be available at chicago.gov/reopening.  

“Over the last year, our business community has stepped up time and time again to keep their customers and employees safe,” said Rosa Escareno, BACP Commissioner. “While today is another exciting step, I urge caution and continued diligence to ensure that we continue to move forward safely and responsibly.” 

While Chicago continues to make significant progress in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the City reminds all Chicagoans that we remain in the midst of a pandemic and calls on everyone to take the safety precautions that helped us flatten the curve a second time. Regulations requiring face coverings and social distancing remain in place at all businesses, and indoor residential gatherings remain limited to no more than ten individuals.  

BACP will continue its comprehensive outreach efforts to ensure that businesses understand the regulations through webinars, outreach calls and consultations. Since March, BACP has held 37 webinars, made over 33,500 calls directly to businesses and conducted 830 non-disciplinary consultations through the Active Compliance Program. BACP will also continue conducting investigations in response to complaints and taking enforcement action in egregious and repeated cases, including through the Large Gathering Task Force. Since last March, BACP has conducted 8,729 investigations and cited 452 businesses for violating COVID-19 violations.

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