These are tough occasions for Chicago hospitality staff and enterprise house owners. Yesterday Governor J.B. Pritzker introduced that he’s utterly banning indoor restaurant and bar service in Chicago on account of 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 end 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 enough airflow. Options can embody seating in tents with a number of sides open, plus house heaters.
Whereas this summer time’s Cafe Streets program, which utterly pedestrianized dozens of roadways to make room for out of doors seating, was hugely successful, town hasn’t indicated that will probably be a factor through the winter. So what can companies do in the event that they need to present out of doors seating, ideally partially sheltered and heated, however they don’t have a patio, parking zone, or enough sidewalk house?
A number of Chicago bars and eating places have solved this downside through the use of on-street parking areas to facilitate out of doors 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 attainable 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 out of doors giant seating areas that occupy all the 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 significant inconvenience for folks with mobility challenges, I don’t see a significant downside with this strategy. The Energetic Transportation Alliance and the native incapacity rights group Entry Residing didn’t reply to requests for feedback on the topic by press time.
The Lakeview neighborhood has a minimum of 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 focused on doing this), so I talked to the chamber’s occasion and advertising 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 due to town waiving a few of the related charges.
Marconet mentioned that, assuming the enterprise has gotten approval and paid the payment to have a traditional 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 it’s important to 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 payment for utilizing Jersey obstacles to guard the pedestrian house from visitors, Marconet mentioned. On Southport, the native Special Service Area is overlaying 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 in regards to the approval course of, and indicated that town is overlaying the true-up payment for the metered areas.
“Within the winter, [using parking lanes this way] looks as if a great way to have the ability to do out of doors seating with out closing the entire road,” 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 be capable of take part, since lots of them don’t already personal patio heaters, and so they’re at the moment laborious to search out and costly on account of provide chain points.
Nevertheless, Marconet mentioned there was enthusiastic help for making Southport car-free to accommodate expanded out of doors eating through the hotter months. “It was nice to have the ability to have more room for strolling and seating, and a few of the eating places bought actually artistic,” similar to adorning their cafe enclosures with flowers. She mentioned that restaurateurs instructed the chamber they have been capable of present as a lot seating open air as they do indoors throughout non-COVID occasions, so that they have been capable of keep away from shedding staff.
The response was so constructive, Marconet mentioned the chamber desires to maintain the summer time and fall Cafe Streets program going, even after the pandemic is only a unhealthy reminiscence. “Individuals simply love consuming exterior anyway in Chicago when the climate’s good.”