Here's what you need to know about restaurants and bars reopening with outdoor service
Wearing a facial covering when not eating or drinking and being careful about congregating as a group are among the differences customers will need to get used to when sit-down restaurants and bars reopen Friday with outdoor service.
"We encourage guests to be patient as restaurants adhere to the health and safety protocols in the guidelines, which were developed in collaboration with leading health and science organizations and experts," said Sam Toia, the Illinois Restaurant Association's president and CEO.
Those who plan to return "should wear face coverings over their nose and mouth while on premises," except while eating and drinking at a table, according to the state. Exceptions can be made for people with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from safely wearing a mask.
Tables will be limited to parties of six and must be at a social distance of 6 feet apart, preferably separated by Plexiglass. Employees should wear cloth masks when within 6 feet of customers or others, per the state regulations.
Toia said guests should expect to find disposable serveware at some places, single-use or digital menus, and floor markers in waiting areas indicating a safe, 6-foot distance. They'll also need to make sure customers spread out when waiting for a table.
Restaurant owners say regular restrooms will be available, but patrons should refrain from crowding them. Customers can expect to see hand sanitizer for their use in outdoor seating areas, and plenty of disinfecting and cleaning by employees.
Establishments are taking different approaches on reservations. Hey Nonny in downtown Arlington Heights is selling tables for seatings spaced 1 hour 45 minutes apart for outdoor dining and entertainment from a solo musician, but Moretti's Ristorante and Pizzeria will welcome walk-ins.
Local governments have the ultimate authority on exactly how it plays out. That's a concern for Fred Hoffman, founder of Moretti's parent company Ala Carte Entertainment.
Moretti's expects to welcome back patrons Friday, including at outdoor dining areas in Bartlett, Schaumburg, Barrington, Lake in the Hills, Hoffman Estates, Rosemont and Mount Prospect.
Hoffmann would prefer that all towns follow state guidelines, but he said some have stricter requirements, such as reduced operating hours.
"And it doesn't make any sense," he said. "We're trying to accomplish something here, not tie our hands."
Arlington Heights eateries and bars will start in individual outdoor areas Friday. That'll be followed at some point by Arlington Alfresco, a village plan to close a portion of downtown to allow tables and chairs from more than a dozen establishments on the public right of way.
Hey Nonny co-owners Chris Dungan and Chip Brooks are looking forward to reopening on Friday. They'll get to use an indoor area where windows can be raised for an open-air setting in compliance with state guidelines, along with outdoor space. The business will close earlier than usual to conform with village rules, Brooks said.
"There's a lot of rules and guidance that we need to incorporate into our procedures to make sure that we're, No. 1, keeping our customers safe, and No. 2, complying with the state rules for being open," Brooks said. "Everybody in town wants to make sure that we do the right thing and we do it in the right way and that we keep people safe."
Wheaton will have a stretch of Hale Street closed in city's downtown for outdoor dining, with a tent going up on Friday for a month. Batavia and St. Charles officials are developing plans to close off public spaces in their downtowns exclusively for outdoor dining.
Libertyville village board members this week authorized waivers of parking, sidewalk signs and other requirements related to outdoor dining, and gave the village staff leeway to approve permits for restaurants that need outdoor space Friday.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the city will not immediately allow sit-down eateries or taverns to reopen. But Toia doesn't expect Chicago to be too far behind the suburbs in reopening.
Hoffmann said it's time for people to return to socialization, but he is not encouraging everyone to participate in the restaurant reopenings, such as those with health problems.
"There's no guarantees when you come out and get in the real world," he said.
• Daily Herald staff writers Mick Zawislak, Lauren Rohr and Katlyn Smith contributed to this report.