Chicago hotels, restaurants and businesses can partially reopen June 3, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned Thursday a resurgence of COVID-19 is a “very real possibility” and, if it happens here, she won’t hesitate to shut down the local economy again.
“As we reopen, please understand that we cannot totally eliminate the risk of this virus. The best we can do — and the best you can do — is to continue to follow the public health guidance,” the mayor said.
“Having a resurgence in cases is more than a risk. It is a very real possibility. We have seen that in nearby states. All we have to do is look to the north, the south, the east and the west for examples. And if that happens, we will not hesitate to take the necessary steps, including moving back to Phase 2.”
Wednesday’s partial reopening with limited capacity runs the gamut — from hotels, outdoor dining at restaurants, office-based jobs and professional services to non-lakefront golf courses, child care inside and outside the home, non-essential retail stores and personal services.
Chicagoans whose hair and nails have grown exponentially during the pandemic will be relieved that barber shops, hair and nail salons are included — at limited capacity, with strict safety precautions.
That includes face masks for everyone, gloves for stylists, goggles or face shields during shampoos and no beard and mustache trims for men or whole-face makeup for women. Lashes and eyebrows are OK, since that work can be done without removing a customer’s face mask.
Lightfoot is working on plans to make outdoor dining more lucrative by closing streets and allowing restaurants to set up tables in bus lanes and adjacent parking lots.
But the mayor said she has urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker to let neighborhood restaurants that don’t have sidewalk cafes open their doors to at least some indoor dining; otherwise, they may not survive the pandemic.
“What I’m really worried about is those small neighborhood restaurants. The cash flow is very limited,” Lightfoot said.
“I talked at length with the governor about that. And I know that he understands the importance of making sure that we can give those neighborhood restaurants in particular that opportunity.”
Bars must wait to take advantage of the new state law authorizing the sale of cocktails-to-go. Lightfoot said she’s drafting a Chicago-specific ordinance, presumably for direct introduction to a City Council committee in time for final approval June 17.
“This is really something the City Council needs to take on. But, we feel confident we’ll be able to adapt quickly … so that this opportunity that’s now been provided by state law will become a reality,” the mayor said.
City services, including libraries and Chicago Park District facilities (but only west of Lake Shore Drive) reopen June 8.
Conspicuously absent from the Phase 3 list are religious services, gyms and the lakefront that Lightfoot famously shut down because Chicagoans could not be trusted to maintain social distance and avoid gathering in large groups.
Lightfoot reiterated she hopes to open those “later in Phase 3,” but only after seeing “see how our first steps go.”
“The lakefront is a beautiful, incredible treasure. I want to make sure that, when we open it back up, that people can enjoy it safely and smartly. What I don’t want to see happen is scenes that we’ve seen from other states, where you open up a resource that people really love and enjoy, and then it gets mobbed and you see people abandoning all of the hard work and social distancing and public health guidance that really got us to the point where we can even talk about opening,” the mayor said.
“We want to plan where we don’t have to say, `This is terrible. We’ve got to shut it back down.’ We want to be smart and thoughtful and intentional about how we reopen our lakefront and beaches. … I think we’ll be in a position to announce plans soon. But, I don’t want to put a specific date on when that’s gonna happen. We are actively involved in looking at ways to bring that important resource back on line and do it quickly.”
With social distancing mandates and most businesses limited to 50% of their normal capacity (25% at non-essential retail stores), rush-hour commuting is likely to be spread out over the course of the workday.
How will the CTA accommodate that new reality?
“What I’ve been hearing from both workers and also from employers is that, in many instances, they’re not coming back downtown — and certainly not full-time — until much later in the summer or, in some instances, even the fall,” the mayor said.
“So I don’t think we’re gonna see, for example, February levels of rush hour. But that’s why I’m calling upon employers. If your people can tele-work, that’s a safer option. Or if they’re coming back downtown for reasons that make sense from a business standpoint, think about staggering the starts and stop time so that we can spread out the number of people that are gonna be on the CTA, but also Metra, at any given time.”
There was still no definitive word on Lollapalooza Thursday, even though nobody expects Lightfoot to allow hundreds of thousands of young people to gather in Grant Park until there’s a vaccine.
But she apparently wants to give music back when she takes away Chicago’s blockbuster music festival.
“We’ll be making an announcement about that relatively soon. We’ll be doing that in conjunction with other things that are gonna be happening over the course of the summer and our plans to bring music back to Chicago.”