Lightfoot proposes new, improved — and permanent — outdoor dining program for Chicago

Outdoor plastic dining bubbles on Fulton Market in October 2020. Expanded outdoor seating was a lifeline for many Chicago restaurants during the pandemic.

Associated Press

An outdoor dining program that proved to be a lifesaver for Chicago restaurants and bars during the darkest days of the pandemic would be made permanent — and expanded into the curb lane — under a mayoral plan proposed Wednesday. 

Last year, the City Council agreed to extend — until Dec. 31, 2022 — a program that had allowed 500 restaurants and bars to place tables on sidewalks, in private parking lots and in the street to serve patrons skittish about dining and drinking indoors.

The program was launched in May 2020, when indoor dining was still prohibited in Illinois. Mayor Lori Lightfoot was trying to make outdoor dining more lucrative by allowing restaurants with sidewalk café permits to set up even more tables.

She started by allowing six commercial corridors to be closed to traffic during designated lunch and dinner hours. Expanded outdoor seating was then offered to bars so long as they had a “food partner” that would deliver food to outdoor drinking customers. 

The city ultimately issued hundreds permits — a “vital lifeline” to as many as 700 different restaurants and bars. At the time, Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi vowed to use lessons learned in the neighborhoods to come up with a permanent program. 

The ordinance Lightfoot introduced Wednesday would fulfill that vow in this city of foodies.

“Making the expanded outdoor dining program permanent will turn what was once a lifeline into long-term assistance and result in the continuation and creation of inviting dining spaces throughout …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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