Chicago Restaurants Prepare for Safe Wintertime Dining Amid the Pandemic

Eisha Shah | The PhoenixUncommon Ground (above) is currently welcoming customers to dine in tents outside the restaurant.

With a chilly Chicago winter around the corner, some local restaurants are preparing to make changes to sustain their businesses in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines. 

Restaurants will now be able to accommodate more customers for indoor dining just before the temperatures begin to drop. The new guidelines for restaurants, announced by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a Sept. 28 press conference, include an increase in the maximum indoor capacity from 25 percent to 40 percent, among other things. Read the entire list of guidelines here.  

More than 60 restaurants in Chicago currently have outdoor dining options, according to Choose Chicago. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the winter, restaurants will need to figure out how they will operate safely with more customers dining inside and determine how to sustain outdoor dining in the cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rogers Park’s I’m Soul Hungry (2043 Howard St.) is looking forward to seating more customers indoors with the maximum capacity being upped to 40 percent since it has a total of one hundred seats available, manager Robert Brown said. It’s not possible for the restaurant to seat customers outdoors because of a lack of space. Brown added the restaurant will follow all guidelines to ensure safe dining indoors.    

Some restaurants that have the space to seat their customers outside are utilizing heating devices and domes to keep their customers warm. 

Edgewater’s Uncommon Ground (1401 W. Devon Ave.) is going to try to keep its beer garden open throughout the entire winter. The restaurant doesn’t currently have an option to dine indoors, but the management team is planning on surveying its staff this week to determine how comfortable they are with the inside of the restaurant. If the restaurant reopens indoor dining, the maximum indoor capacity will depend on the judgment of its staff, Uncommon Ground co-owner Hellen Cameron said.  

“We are encouraging people to dine outdoors even if it is cold out because we now have numerous tents … and we have heaters, fire cables, and such so that people can kinda bundle up,” Cameron said. 

As of now, River West’s Italian restaurant Piccolo Sogno (464 N Halsted St.) has outdoor patio space to seat thirty-five customers in a tent and is also open for indoor dining. In addition to adding a second tent, Piccolo Sogno will be putting heating lamps around the patio for the wintertime, according to the manager, who asked not to be named.

“We have hand sanitizers all around the restaurant, everyone wears a mask including the guests that come in, all of our employees get their temperature checked prior to punching in, and we also have blue light hepa filters that clean the air so any bacteria that comes in gets cleaned,” the Piccolo Sogno manager said.

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