Lakefront restaurants to reopen this week, but beaches remain closed

Chicagoans will soon be able to enjoy a chilled beverage and meal on the lake, but will have to stay off the sand.

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The Shore Club located on North Avenue Beach is one of a few restaurants that will be opening back up to customers this Friday, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Chicagoans will soon be able to enjoy a chilled beverage and delicious meal at their favorite beachfront restaurants.

Though the beaches remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, city officials gave lakefront restaurants and cafes the green light this week to reopen for business after months of being shut down due to the pandemic.

That was welcome news for Reggie’s on the Beach, one of at least five beachfront eateries that have announced plans to open their doors for the first time this summer.

“We already lost half the season, so it’s better than nothing,” Reggie on the Beach’s owner Robby Glick said. “And we’re just grateful that they listened to us and are letting us open.”

Reggie’s on the Beach, located near the Jackson Park Harbor, will be the first restaurant to return to business when it opens its doors Thursday. The other four restaurants — The Dock on Montrose, Caffe Oliva, Castaways and Shore Club — plan to reopen Friday, according to the businesses’ Facebook pages.

Beachfront restaurants previously were not able to open under the Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s order that closed the lakefront as coronavirus cases surged in March. Lightfoot loosened the restrictions in June, reopening the Lakefront Trail for people to use for exercise and transit, though beaches remain off limits.

The city told restaurant owners that they will be partially responsible for keeping their clientele off the sand, Glick said.

Glick doesn’t think it’ll be a problem to keep patrons off the beaches. However, he’s concerned about beachgoers who take advantage of the lakefront when park district-employed lifeguards are off duty.

“People get that we are just getting open, we already missed two-thirds of our season, they’re happy that we’re getting open, they know what we’ve been through, and they’ll abide by these new regulations,” said Glick, who’s hiring extra in-house security to help patrol the 63rd Street Beach as a precautionary measure. “It’s the other people, the non-Reggie’s on the Beach crowd, I’m worried about.”

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A notice on the The Shore Club’s window lets customers know it’ll be reopening on Friday at 11:00 A.M., Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Along with the beaches, lakefront parking lots also remain closed, which Glick fears might deter some customers from coming.

“Our parking lots aren’t going to be open, so it’s going to be a challenge for people to get here, but I think we’ll still do good,” he said. “I think people will still find a way and it is really beautiful at our spot, so it’ll be worth the trek.”

Reggie’s is offering a shuttle service from its South Loop location to the beach to help ease the burden on some Chicagoans. He also said people can ride their bikes on the Lakeshore Trail or park in the lot on the west side of Lake Shore Drive and then walk to the beach.

Glick said it was frustrating to see other restaurants reopen for sit-down dining, while his beach bar couldn’t.

“It seemed like a double standard in a way,” Glick said. “The riverwalk is open, the harbors are open, the harbor bars are open, but the beach is closed and anything on the beach is closed.

“Our restaurant is right across the street from a harbor, other harbor bars are open yet we weren’t allowed to open because we were technically on the beach.”

Glick is planning to make the most of the next six or eight weeks left of summer. He believes the city made the right call in letting patrons return to lakefront restaurants.

“People, they need some positivity right now,” he said, “and this will help.”

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