Business News

Latest Measures to Support Outdoor Dining in Phase Three

Posted on June 12, 2020

Mayor Lightfoot along with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) have introduced an ordinance to remove regulatory burdens and provide financial relief to restaurants seeking to operate outdoors during phase three of the City’s ‘Protecting Chicago’ re-opening framework. The proposed ordinance will reduce fees, expand the opportunity for revenue and expedite the permitting process for Sidewalk Cafes while removing a regulatory burden for the new Expanded Outdoor Dining Permits.

The support measure was passed by the Committee on Transportation and Public Way today and will be considered by the full City Council on Wednesday, June 17. This proposal is designed to make it easier than ever to acquire a Sidewalk Café permit and be a life-line to help many businesses that may not currently have an option for outdoor dining.

Under the proposed ordinance, the following measures would be taken to remove regulatory burdens and ensure establishments can operate as quickly and safely as possible:

  • Reduce the fees for Sidewalk Café permits by 75%, which would apply retroactively to all permits issues this year. Businesses who have already been granted a permit will receive a refund.
  • Extend the boundaries of Sidewalk Café into the public way in front of a neighboring establishment, provided that the neighbor is not a retail food or liquor establishment. Cafes must extend continuously, cannot block the door or window of a neighboring property, and plans for extended cafes must be submitted as part of the application, with insurance coverage including the entire extended footprint.
  • Expedite the permit process by removing the requirement for Sidewalk Café permit applications to be submitted to City Council before issuance. This will preserve the local alderman’s ability to review applications on the front end while removing a regulatory burden that can add 30 days to the issuance timeline.

The newly proposed ordinance was created specifically to foster outdoor dining, while also supporting the need for social distancing and maintaining adequate space on the City’s sidewalks for pedestrians and ADA compliance as Chicago cautiously reopens under phase three.

In addition to the option for sidewalk cafes, businesses with valid Retail Food Establishment Licenses can temporarily expand operations into the street or other private property through the new Expanded Outdoor Dining Permit. This permit is part of the City’s “Our Streets” plan and is processed by CDOT, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and BACP. Applicants for street closures can be submitted by a Chamber of Commerce, Special Service Area Agency, Business Association, or three (3) or more restaurants. Individual restaurants with their own parking lots may apply by themselves to expand into their own or a nearby private lot.

BACP, CDOT and DCASE will be holding a series of webinars next week to provide an overview of outdoor dining options for restaurants. Learn more by visiting chicago.gov/businessworkshops.

Earlier this week, the Committee on License and Consumer Protection passed an ordinance introduced by Mayor Lightfoot to temporarily allow for the sale of to-go cocktails in a safe and responsible manner. To minimize gatherings during the cautious reopening, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady signed a Public Health Order to restrict the sales of alcoholic liquor sales each evening. Under the updated order, liquor sales for off-site consumption via delivery or carry out must cease at 9:00 p.m. each evening, and liquor sales for on-site consumption via outdoor dining must end at 11:00 p.m.

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