Governor Pritzker’s announced Wednesday that bars and restaurants would be allowed to serve customers outdoors when the state moves on to the next phase of reopening.
It is welcome news in Chicago and towns like Arlington Heights alike.
Even at popular hot spots in the city, like Picolo Sogno in the Fulton River District, revenue is down 85 to 90%.
Tony Priolo is the chef and owner.
“For restaurants, we’ve all been in shock. We’ve been lost,” he said.
Pritzker’s announcement comes after repeated pleas from the Illinois Restaurant Association.
“We’ve been reaching out to him almost on a daily basis sending emails, texts,” Priolo said. “As a group we’re better as one voice. He’s listening to us finally.”
“We’re going to be innovative to make this happen,” Priolo said. “This is our livelihood. We’re here to take care of people.”
In Arlington Heights
In Arlington Heights, they’re making big changes to help local businesses.
They’re calling the plan “Arlington Alfresco.” It would close some downtown streets so restaurants can offer dining outside.
The plans were originally slated for Phase 4 of the governor’s “Reopen Illinois” plan, which would have been closer to July. But after he announced the outdoor dining revision to be allowed in Phase 3, the suburb is full-speed ahead to get this off the ground by May 29 when it begins.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said it was actually restaurant owners who approached him about the idea, taking inspiration from some European cities where dining al fresco is popular.
Under the plan, there will be street closures on Vail Avenue and Campbell Street, similar to the closures for the downtown art festival and taste of Arlington Heights.
With the closure, about a dozen restaurants can then expand seating outdoors, spacing tables 6-feet apart on the sidewalk and into the street.
They expect even when Phase 4 hits, which could be late June/early July, they’ll keep the al fresco dining in place because restaurants won’t be able to seat full capacity indoors.
Hayes said the plan will help restaurants stay afloat. He said many have suffered a 90% reduction in revenue since March.
“Our restaurants as are really struggling,” he said. “We’re trying to do anything and everything we can to help them out during this very difficult time. Curb-side pickup only allows them to survive. We’re hoping this outdoor idea really helps them get through to the other side.”
Orland Park also announced Wednesday its expanding outdoor seating at restaurants for diners, with certain restrictions. The village is working to install concrete blocks to border outdoor dining spaces.
Prior to Pritzker’s announcement, cities like Hinsdale and Algonquin were planning similar outdoor seating plans starting in July.
Now there are likely many other communities and restaurants that will be scrambling to get this up and running in nine days.