Chicago restaurants and bars won’t have to wait until July to fully reopen. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has bumped up the city’s reopening date to Friday, June 11 which aligns with when the rest of the state is scheduled to reach the final phase of its pandemic recovery plan.
Prompted by declining COVID-19 positivity rates and fewer hospitalizations and reported cases, the shift into Phase 5 of Restore Illinois allows restaurants and bars to resume normal operations without capacity limits and social distancing policies after more than a year of fluctuating restrictions designed to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Because you’ve masked up, socially distanced and got vaccinated, we’re now moving to Phase 5 on Friday, June 11 in alignment with the state.
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) June 3, 2021
“I think we’ve done great work as a city — lots of individual sacrifices along the way — so I think we’re ready to move to Phase 5 with the state next Friday, June 11,” Lightfoot said in a virtual question-and-answer session with Chicago Health Department Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
Lightfoot’s decision comes less than a day after Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the rest of Illinois remains on target for when restaurants can fully reopen. The mayor’s statement is a noteworthy change from early May when she said the city hopes to lift capacity limits on restaurants and other businesses by July 1.
Beyond lifting all capacity restrictions, large events — including festivals and conventions — will be allowed to take place. The city has touted Windy City Smokeout on July 8 through July 11 outside the United Center as the first big food event since the pandemic. The barbecue and country music festival is run by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and music promoter Ed Warm.
As Illinois isn’t among the states using vaccine passports, the Smokeout is employing an app, CLEAR, to verify if ticket holders are vaccinated. Both Chicago airports, Midway and O’Hare, use the app. Unvaccinated attendees will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test with results within 72 hours for each day they attend. All will have to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.
Currently, restaurants and bar owners can set their own mask policies under the state’s bridge phase by allowing vaccinated people to go without masks. However, a number of restaurants have kept mask requirements as staff would rather retain the safeguards than count on customers to be honest about being vaccinated. As inoculation rates continue to dip, both city and state officials persist in urging unvaccinated residents to get their shots.