Restaurants and bars can reopen for outdoor seating as soon as May 29, Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday. The announcement came after Pritzker said he consulted with public health officials about the risks for coronavirus transmission outdoors. Initially, bars and restaurants were not set to reopen until Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expanding on what can reopen in the next phase of his Restore Illinois plan. Wednesday, the governor said that restaurants and bars can open for outdoor seating when the state enters Phase 3 of the plan on May 29. The state will require tables at outdoor seating to be six feet apart. Gatherings of 10 people or less will be permitted.
“We are by no means out of the woods, but directionally, things are getting better. And because of these advances, we are able to make some modifications to allow more activity during Phase 3 of our reopening plan Restore Illinois,” Pritzker said. “Our mission has always been to get people back to work, get students back to school and return to as much normalcy as possible without jeopardizing the health and safety of Illinoisans.”
Additionally, all stores will be allowed to reopen for in-person shopping as long as they provide social distancing safety measures. Foursomes will be allowed for golf, indoor and outdoor tennis facilities will be allowed to open, and all state parks will reopen, with concessions sales allowed too.
This comes after the Illinois State Police announced Tuesday night that no arrests will be made if businesses violate the stay-at-home order, but also urged them to follow the rule.
Last Friday, Pritzker issued an emergency rule that would fine businesses up to $2,500 for violating his executive order. However, before the governor’s daily press conference on Wednesday, Pritzker’s team withdrew the controversial emergency rule. The administration said it would withdraw the rule to avoid a clash between legislative and executive branches, according to sources within the Joint Action Committee, who met today to challenge the rule.
Bars and restaurants were previously slated to only be allowed to re-open to seated customers once the state hit Phase 4 of Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan.
Municipalities are encouraged to help restaurants and bars expand their outdoor seating options. “With the right restrictions, tables — six feet apart and away from the sidewalks — masks and distancing measures for staff and other precautions, the experts believe that these services can open at a risk comparable to other outdoor activities,” Pritzker said during the briefing.
The governor said that making reservations and closing streets to provide more room to accommodate seating may become the new normal.
Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said people will be able to remove masks while eating, though they’ll need to put them back on when using the bathroom and leaving. Toia said the patio announcement is a “glimmer of light” for an industry that has been badly hurt by coronavirus shutdowns. Statistics show 20 to 25 percent of restaurants might close for good due to the pandemic — and some already have, Toia said.
Also set to reopen on May 29 once the state hits Phase 3 are other “non-essential businesses,” including nail salons, beauty salons, spas, tattoo parlors, hair braiders, and barbershops.