Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is proposing a set of sweeping changes to city laws governing businesses and workers, including a permanent liquor store sales curfew.
Many of the reforms under what the mayor is calling the “Chi Biz Strong Initiative” were first implemented as temporary measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as limited hours for liquor sales and a cap on the fees charged by third-party food delivery apps.
The mayor touted the reforms as cutting red tape and providing financial relief to businesses and workers.
“In order to recover from this pandemic quickly and holistically, we must take bold action and reimagine how we do business here in Chicago,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
The mayor is proposing a series of changes for restaurants, including allowing them to continue offering cocktails to-go, using A-Frame sidewalk signs to advertise and speeding up licensing for new restaurants who wish to open in a previously-closed restaurant.
But she’s also proposing a permanent liquor store sales curfew of 10 p.m. At the start of the pandemic, Lightfoot cut off liquor sales at 9 p.m. and eased that to 11 p.m. last fall. Before COVID-19, liquor stores could sell booze until 2 or 3 a.m. and were only restricted from selling alcohol on Sunday mornings.
Lightfoot is also seeking to extend a 15% cap on fees charged by apps like DoorDash and Grubhub. It would not apply to “Chain Restaurants” with 10 or more locations, but would remain in place until all pandemic restrictions on indoor dining, imposed by the city or the state, are lifted for 180 consecutive days.
There are also several proposed amendments to the licensing requirements for chauffeur, taxi and ride-share companies, like Uber and Lyft, and an entirely new set of rules to legalize Tuk Tuks, formally dubbed “low-speed electric public passenger vehicles.”
It’s not just businesses who might see pandemic-induced changes made permanent. For example, the mayor is seeking to further amend the city’s paid sick leave law, which requires all employers to provide employees with paid sick days. Lightfoot wants workers to be able to take sick time for mental and behavioral health, and when caring for children whose schools or day care facilities are closed. The mayor is also proposing a crackdown on wage theft.
Aldermen would have to sign off on all of the mayor’s proposed changes, but that vote is not expected today.
The City Council today is expected to take up these items at its monthly meeting today: a proposed name change to Lake Shore Drive. Aldermen could vote on a measure that would change Chicago’s most well-known road to honor Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, the city’s first non-Indegenous resident who’s considered a founding father. A vote is also expected on a new proposal to license tow-truck operators who want to work in the city. Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly could propose a cap on rising ride-hailing fees, the Sun-Times reports.
Aldermen are also being asked to green-light funding or zoning requests for several development projects, including a megadevelopment on the North Side that would create multiple high-rise towers with more than 2,500 apartments and condos on the site. A development across the city in McKinley Park that would create more than 100 affordable housing units in the neighborhood got mixed reviews in committee this week because it’s situated next to an asphalt plant. Aldermen are expected to take a vote on a zoning change that would allow the project to move forward.
In addition, the developer behind a project to renovate the historic Ramova Theater in Bridgeport is asking for an increase in funding from the city to complete the project, and the owner of The Forum seeks a zoning change to restore the legendary venue in Bronzeville.
WBEZ reporter Mariah Woelfel contributed.
Becky Vevea covers City Hall for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.