Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to let Chicago's 1,200 sidewalk cafés stay open year-round even in the dead of winter sailed through a City Council committee Tuesday, but only after aldermen got assurances that it won't interfere with snow removal.
Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno responded to concerns raised by aldermen during closed-door briefings by promising to establish a "snow threshold at which point all café furniture -- tables, chairs and railings or barriers -- must be removed."
Alderman Tom Tunney, owner of Ann Sather's Restaurants, said he can "see both sides" of the issue as an alderman and a longtime sidewalk café operator himself.
On the one hand, Tunney noted that a St. Patrick's Day that landed on a Saturday a few years ago when temperatures soared into the 80s allowed restaurants to rake in more money in one day than January, February and March combined. Year-round sidewalk cafés would only have padded those totals, he said.
But Tunney also acknowledged that there would be growing pains to allowing Chicagoans to dine al fresco year-round when the weather can change on a dime and outdoor street furniture needs to be moved out of the way quickly.
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