Expanded service might be allowed
as early as May 29
From closing off streets to temporary licenses, some south and southwest suburbs are looking at ways to help restaurants offer or expand outdoor dining options.
Illinois’ phased reopening plan would allow restaurants to resume dine-in service, but at half capacity, and enlarging outdoor seating areas to provide social distancing is something communities are exploring. The governor on Wednesday said outdoor dining would be allowed in the next phase, which the suburbs could reach as early as May 29.
Tinley Park officials say that their plans, still being formulated, could include closing off streets to provide space for outdoor dining. Orland Park trustees Monday approved a plan to extend temporary licenses to restaurants that want to expand or add outdoor dining.
Mayors in communities such as Frankfort, Homewood and Palos Heights said they’re open to working with restaurant operators.
“We want to help them come up with ways to do this and maintain social distancing,” Frankfort Mayor Jim Holland said Wednesday.
His village has begun surveying restaurants in the community.
While some Homewood restaurants have limited outdoor or sidewalk dining, allowing them to expand, perhaps onto their own parking lots, is something the village would be willing to explore, Mayor Rich Hofeld said.
“We’re doing our best to keep these restaurants alive,” he said.
Palos Heights is also polling restaurants to see what can be done in the area of outdoor dining, Mayor Robert Straz said.
“We are exploring anything we can do to get them going,” he said.
The Illinois Restaurant Association has said it fears as many as a fourth of independently owned restaurants in the state might fail because of the economic hit from COVID-19.
“Small, independent restaurants and bars will not be able to survive for much longer without being able to open back up for dine in service in some form in the immediate future,” Sam Toia, the association’s president, wrote in a letter earlier this month to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Toia noted in the letter that under the state’s five-stage reopening plan, restaurants might not be able to resume dine-in service on a limited basis until late June.
“The current plan underestimates the restaurant industry’s ability to reopen and implement whatever enhanced public health measures are deemed necessary,” Toia wrote, asking that restaurants be allowed to restart in-person dining under Phase 3.
Under Orland Park’s temporary licensing plan, outdoor seating for customers would be limited to half the capacity of the restaurant’s interior dining space, with social distancing rules in effect. Restaurants would need to submit to the village a plan that shows the layout of any new or expanded seating area.
The village said Wednesday is is working with ready-mix concrete company Ozinga to provide concrete blocks that could be used to border temporary outdoor dining spaces and safeguard diners from vehicles. The blocks will be offered at a discounted price to village businesses, with the Public Works Department able to help in placement of the blocks.
Mayors said the issue isn’t as simple as shutting down a street and setting up tables.
“It’s a little more complicated of an issue because we have other shops to take into consideration” and allowing customers access to them,” Holland said. “Is there a way to maybe do it only on Friday or Saturday nights when the other stores are closed?”
Straz said he is open to carving out space on city-owned property for Palos Heights businesses to expand outside dining, but “our downtown business district is on Harlem Avenue” which takes away street closures as an option.