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Chicago bars can start serving customers outside — even if they don’t serve food

As of Friday, businesses that serve alcohol without a retail food license may apply to temporarily operate on their front sidewalk through and expansion of the city’s outdoor dining program, the mayor’s office announced.

People dine at Parlor Pizza Bar in River North on July 3, 2020.
Restaurants have been able to serve customers outside, but bars without a food license have been out of luck since the city tightened restrictions after a surge in positive cases among younger residents. Now, bars also can set up some limited outdoor seating.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Bars that that had been closed again to indoor service after a surge of coronavirus among young people have gotten a little help from the city.

New guidelines announced Friday will make it a little easier for bars and taverns that don’t serve food to set up places for customers to drink outside.

As of Friday, businesses that serve alcohol without a retail food license may apply to temporarily operate on their front sidewalk through and expansion of the city’s outdoor dining program, the mayor’s office announced.

Liquor-only establishments must identify a “partner food establishment” to ensure customers can order food to eat at the bar, the mayor’s office said. The outdoor spaces must also allow 6 feet of room for pedestrians to get by on the sidewalk. That seating area also must be surrounded by some sort of barrier.

Restaurant and bars can now also apply for an “expanded outdoor dining permit” to serve customers in patios, courtyards and terraces, places that would typically require owners to apply for an outdoor patio license.