Your NPR news source
Chicago bars

Wrigleyville had lines out the door at almost all the bars and restaurants that line Clack Street near Wrigley Field in Lakeview, on St. Patricks Day, March 14, 2020.

Manuel Martinez

Chicago Orders Bars To Stop Serving Indoors As COVID-19 Cases Rise

Chicago is bringing back some restrictions on businesses, including shutting down bars that only serve alcohol, as cases of COVID-19 tick up.

Restaurants and bars that serve food will be allowed to continue offering indoor service, but can only allow groups of up to six people, rather than 10. Indoor fitness classes will be capped at 10 people, and renters will not be allowed to have more than five guests visit their homes at a time.

The new restrictions announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot this morning go into effect on Friday, July 24. (To find out what’s open where you live, WBEZ and the Chicago Reporter are keeping track.)

“The goal, of course, is to take focused actions now that are able to keep us from having to take a very large step backward,” said Chicago’s Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady.

Read more: All of WBEZ’s coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak in Chicago and the region

Arwady said bars are a high-risk setting not only because people are gathering indoors, but because drinking requires people to remove masks and bars tend to be very loud, meaning people often “raise their voice, project, yell.” Arwady also noted that Chicago is seeing the largest recent increases of COVID-19 among 18- to 29-year-olds.

The targeted reopening rollback will impact about 450 bars in Chicago that don’t serve food or have outdoor patios, according to Rosa Escareno, commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Escareno and Chicago’s Deputy Mayor for Neighborhood & Economic Development Samir Mayekar said they will be meeting with business owners all this week to go over the changes.

The city is also paying close attention to Wrigleyville ahead of Friday’s Cubs delayed opening game against the Milwaukee Brewers. No fans will be in the stadium, but the rooftops around the ballpark will be allowed to operate with social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions.

Escareno said the city is meeting with bars and businesses in the area to share the new rules and remind them the 25 percent capacity limit remains in place for indoor dining and drinking. The city is also working with Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, the Cubs organization, and the local police to make sure people are in compliance.

The new rules also include a restriction on renters having people over. The city plans to ask residential property managers to limit the number of guests per unit to five people “to avoid indoor gatherings and parties.”

Mayekar said the city will be doing outreach through the Chicago Apartment Association and other groups. Escareno said the first step is education and then enforcement. She also encouraged residents to report violations via 311.

Chicago is seeing an average of more than 200 new cases of COVID-19 each day. The 7-day rolling average as of Sunday, July 19 was 233, according to the mayor’s office. The city has also seen an increase in its percentage of cases testing positive for the virus, the mayor’s office said, after weeks of decline.

The city is also limiting personal cosmetic services again. Those that require the removal of face masks, like facials and shaves, won’t be allowed.

Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.

The Latest
Some of Biden’s youngest advocates in Illinois share what concerns them about another Trump presidency, and why they’re sticking with Biden.
Chicagoan Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, and a major Democratic donor and fundraiser, also said it was time for Democrats to consider alternatives to Biden.
Federal officials haven’t asked that the “tent city” next to the Dan Ryan Expressway be cleared, but a top mayoral aide says she doesn’t want to wait and then scramble.
An automated ticketing program targeting drivers who block bus lanes, bike lanes, crosswalks or loading zones downtown has been delayed until the fall, the city said. Every offending driver gets one warning notice before being ticketed.
Illinois Republicans prepare to celebrate Trump’s nomination as recent infighting has mired the state party.