The head of the Illinois Restaurant Association looks to ski towns for inspiration:
Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said the trade group has been having conversations with the city and state about extending street closures and using tents, heaters, blankets and plastic domes to give restaurants more seating capacity as COVID-19 restrictions continue.
“We have about six weeks,” Toia said Wednesday during a virtual speech to the City Club of Chicago. “We need to start thinking outside the box right now. … Because we could be in this for the next six months and we want to be ahead of the curve.”
Outdoor dining has been a saving grace for restaurants with the space for it, and the city has reduced sidewalk fees, streamlined the process for getting an outdoor seating permit and blocked off some streets to allow tables to be set up there.
When the weather no longer cooperates, “we could really be in trouble,” Toia said. He urged local officials to take a page from Toronto, Paris and Colorado ski towns to make outdoor dining feasible into winter.
He's right to worry. Our Covid-19 numbers get just a tiny bit worse every day, though we're still under the line to remain in Phase 4.