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City limits bar crowds to 100

Also, bars and restaurants no longer are allowed to let people line up outside, waiting to get in.

Despite the cancelation of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Chicago amid COVID-19 concerns, people barhop in River North on Saturday, March 14, 2020.
Chicago bars can’t have more than 100 people inside, and outside lines are banned.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

After St. Patrick’s Day revelers flooded bars amid the coronavirus outbreak, the city of Chicago on Sunday cut in half the capacity of all businesses that serve booze and set a hard cap of 100 people at establishments with liquor licenses.

Businesses that fail to comply with the new directives – which also prohibit establishments from lining up customers outside — will face citations from Chicago police and the city’s office of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

The announcement came shortly after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that he’s considering shutting down bars and restaurants altogether as state officials look to tamp down the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re actually looking hard at that decision making today,” Pritzker said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“We obviously saw what happened in Europe,” he added. “Nowhere in the United States really has there been a lockdown on bars and restaurants, but it’s something that we’re seriously looking at.”

During a news conference Sunday at O’Hare International Airport, Lightfoot admonished St. Patrick’s Day partiers for “engaging in very foolish conduct” that defied guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that people were seen sharing drinks and standing close together in lines. As a result, she called on the operators of businesses that serve alcohol to “step up.”

“We’re giving them the opportunity today to show that they can get this right,” she said “But if they’re not willing to do that and work with us, we’re going to have to take more drastic steps and unfortunately that’s going to mean more hardship on not only the owners, but also the workers.”

“If we have to be the parent and the adult in the room to make sure that bars are doing what is necessary, then we’re going to do that.”

Lightfoot’s also offered a clear message to the general public: “This is a pandemic. We need people to take it seriously.”

Despite the stark warnings, Lightfoot said she sympathizes with hospitality businesses that are taking a hit in the wake of the coronavirus and the hourly workers they employ. One business owner told her that bars and restaurants are “falling off a cliff right now,” she noted.

“We are trying to do everything we can to stabilize that part of our economy, but we need the restaurant and bar owners to be our partner,” she said.