Chicago Bars Back in Business on Wednesday, But Only for Outdoor Service


Video: A “Chicago Tonight” discussion about city reopening plans with Howard Windmiller, owner of Nighthawk Coffee Bar & Tavern; John Brand, owner of Open Outcry Brewing Company; and Norman Bolden, owner of Norman’s Bistro.


Bars, lounges, taverns and brewery taprooms — basically any establishment that serves alcohol on-site, but not food — will be allowed to reopen Wednesday, with a whole slew of caveats.

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Bar owners had complained they were stuck in “un-opening purgatory” after businesses in possession of incidental liquor licenses (places that serve food and drinks) were given the green light to reopen June 3 as part of Chicago’s phase three plan.

According to officials, June 17 was chosen as the reopening date for bars as it is two weeks from the beginning of that phase and the incubation period for COVID-19 is thought to extend to 14 days.

Among the guidelines bars must adhere to: outdoor service only, tables spaced 6 feet apart, and a maximum of six people per table. Additionally, seating will be limited to a maximum of two hours. Alcohol sales will end on-site at 11 p.m., and at 9 p.m. for carryout or delivery.


“Outdoor area” applies to patios, rooftops, rooms with retractable roofs and indoor spaces where 50% or more of a wall can be removed via the opening of windows, doors, or panels, provided that dining tables are within 8 feet from such openings, according to the city’s guidelines. (So if you’ve seen people dining “indoors,” the 50% rule is why.)

Taverns lacking an existing outdoor area can apply for an “expanded outdoor dining permit,” which would allow them to expand into private property, including parking lots.

Finally, bars and breweries may also participate in the city’s “Our Streets” plan to close streets to through traffic for expanded outdoor food and beverage service. Applications for street closure must be submitted by chambers, Special Service Area agencies, business service organizations or three or more restaurants.

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]

Note: This story was first published on Monday, June 15, 2020. It has been updated to include our “Chicago Tonight” discussion.

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