Struggling Chicago restaurants call on city to give more support, allow them to offer indoor dining

Chicago News

CHICAGO — Restaurant owners who say they are being unfairly targeted by COVID-19 restrictions are calling on the City of Chicago to offer them more support and allow them to offer indoor dining. 

The owner of Pompeii in Little Italy, Ralph Davino says he isn’t sure he can stay open  under the current COVID-19 business climate.

“My business is 100 years old and I want to make sure it stays open,” Davino said.

Restaurants in Chicago have joined ranks under the auspices of the Chicago Restaurant Coalition. The group’s Executive Director Roger Romanelli says the city’s own data doesn’t support the ban on indoor dining. 

Romanelli says from June to September, only 297 workers tested positive out of the 75,000 who work at the city’s 7,300 restaurants.

“Big box stores are being allowed to operate but Chicago restaurants are not,” Romanelli said. “We can’t burden restaurants to wait and wait and wait; we could be here until April or May.”

It’s been 75 days since the indoor dining ban went into effect and already many restaurants have had to close. Under the state’s Reopen Illinois plan, indoor dining will be allowed to resume after regions like the City of Chicago see their average COVID-19 test positivity rates drop below 8%.

Chicago’s 7-day test positivity rate is 10.3% as of Tuesday and is beginning to drop again after it rose in the days following the holidays.

Twin Anchors owner Mary Kay Tuzi says they’ve followed protocols since the pandemic began, but they don’t know if the restaurant which opened its doors in 1932 can keep them open for much longer.  

“Our restaurant can’t survive on take out and delivery alone,” Tuzi said.

Members of the restaurant coalition are asking for the City to tap into its $2 billion Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reserve to help restaurant employees and owners, and for the city to allow for 20% indoor occupancy.

Owners said they would observe social distancing and mitigation guidelines, while the 20% level may be just enough to pay the bills and keep their staff employed.

They say Chicago should make an exception in allowing them to break state restrictions, as just outside the city bars and restaurants are being allowed to operate in defiance of the orders and in some cases at way more than 20% capacity.

The group has started a petition for residents to call on the City of Chicago to offer them more support and allow them to open for indoor dining.

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