Dine-In Dispute

Dine-In Dispute

Mariah Ona, News Editor

Recently talk of reopening dine-in restaurants have occurred in the media.  However mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot ensures that that won’t be the case for Chicago, just yet. Lightfoot wants a more robust plan to ensure Chicago restaurants can reopen safely. 

“We are hard at work on looking at ways in which we can get our restaurant industry back up. I was heartened by the comments that the governor made yesterday about restaurants, but again like everything, we’ve got to do it safely,” commented Lightfoot.

Previous to these events Pritzker said Illinois will only be opening up again, once we reach phase four, but is now saying restaurants and bars are set to possibly reopen outdoors for May 29th. It is believed to be from the pressure from the Illinois Restaurant Association, considering establishments in Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri have reopened. Now instead of ordering takeout, people are scurrying across the Illinois border to spend their money at those reopened locations.

Statewide there have been over 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is what makes the idea of reopening quite controversial. 

Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, “We’re thinking about what needs to happen structurally in restaurants and other food establishments, everything from face coverings to occupancies to not using the same ketchup bottle.”

All precautions are being taken however, the decision to reopen restaurants in an outdoor setting is being debated.  A big factor in this is the uncertainty of weather, considering its unpredictability.

“No restaurant I know of is going to be able to survive depending upon what the weather is going to be like on a particular day in Chicago.”

However, the process of reopening inside might not be sufficient for some restaurants economically. Luckily, Lightfoot is only willing to pursue any plans once all neighborhoods of Chicago are on board, which Pritzker seems to be on board with.

  Not only are restaurant owners struggling, but bar owners as well.  Recently it has been declared illegal to sell mixed drinks, even for delivery. For owners in the Chicago area who have been shut down are fighting to change this. 

Partner at Japanese-inspired bars Julia Momose founded “Cocktails for Hope” a group to raise awareness for the struggling bar owners in hopes of getting the attention of local leaders. She also created an online petition which gained over 8,000 signatures.

“This isn’t about getting a couple of extra bucks in the pocket, this is about saving businesses, saving jobs and helping jumpstart the economy,” Momose said.

The idea has not been addressed by the board. But glass-half-full it hasn’t been dismissed either.

When asked about the law Mayor Lori Lightfoot answered “That’s not something that we can mandate at the local level.  that’s gotta be a change that comes at the state level.”

Governor JB Pritzker was asked a similar question and claimed that he had not thought of mixed drinks being served at the curb. Thankfully he said he would be happy to look into it, but since then the issue has not been brought up.

Currently drinks can be served if a Tavern contains a proper license. This might seem great at first but these taverns are only allowed to sell and deliver liquor, but only pre-sealed, in the original package. This negatively impacts businesses that thrive only due to specialty cocktails.

The reason for this is because the delivery of mixed drinks violates the law that requires original packaging. A law originally put in place to decrease the likelihood of drunk drivers.  But without the law it increases the likelihood of intoxicated drivers, as well as the product exposure to COVID-19.

However, some bars either have not received the message, or are choosing to avoid it as they are delivering mixed drinks curbside. Others choose to accept the law and find ways around it by selling cocktail kits. So consumers can mix the drinks themselves, given the full bottles.

This idea would work to get around the law what does not create a sustainable profit. An example of this is if a drink is typically sold for $13, and the kit to make it is sold at $50 serving 15 to 16 people, that puts the price at $3.30 per serving. That’s almost a $10 profit loss for every drink.

Some states have temporarily lifted the bands on premixed cocktail delivery due to Corona.  This has not been the case yet in Illinois. 

“We’re asking them to acknowledge that the landscape has changed and the restrictions that have been placed on us need to change so we’re still able to operate.”-Julia Momose

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Block Club Chicago