Chicago area restaurants explode with warm weather and relaxed COVID-19 restrictions; Owners hope it’s a taste of what’s to come – CBS Chicago
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois (CBS) – There was a business boom this Sunday thanks to summer weather and improved COVID-19 settings – Chicagoans in droves for a boost many restaurants desperately need.
As CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reported, restaurateurs hope this amounts to a taste of what’s to come.
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Sunday’s weather, with temperatures soaring into the ’80s, brought more crowds outside. Meanwhile, relaxed restrictions also allowed more people to be inside.
Both things give restaurateurs the feeling that they are taking a further step forward, although there is still a long way to go.
Saavedra visited Hey Nonny Live Music + Local Kitchen, at 10 S. Vail Ave. in Arlington Heights. In one of the surest signs that the pandemic is improving, live music at Hey Nonny returned on Sunday.
“There have been continuous creative adjustments,” said Chip Brooks, who owns Hey Nonny with Chris Dungan.
“It’s so fantastic to have people inside,” Dungan said.
Hey Nonny was having one of his best weekends for a long time this weekend. Their crowd for the jazz brunch was both outside and inside, thanks to relaxed COVID-19 mitigations in suburban Cook County.
As of Friday, indoor dining is permitted at a capacity of 50% or 100 people, whichever is smaller. And it’s a pretty perfect time, with a few days of great weather and more people vaccinated – ready to go out.
“I think everyone said they just saw a great turnout this spring,” Dungan said, “and people really saw an increase in business.”
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The city of Chicago also has 50 percent indoor capacity – and that has helped, said Pat Doerr of the Hospitality Business Association of Chicago.
“From a mitigation and regulatory perspective, when we were just getting out of the indoor ban, we were much better off,” Doerr said.
But when it comes to the city, he says a real rebound is not possible without regaining tourism.
“I’m actually doing this from a big downtown restaurant with exactly customers inside and a half-empty sidewalk cafe, and we’re surrounded by hotels and two blocks from our house. Riverwalk, ”Doerr said via Zoom. “So there is clearly a lot of work to be done to rebuild demand for the entire hospitality industry, especially the city center.”
Back in the suburbs, they agree that getting back to where they were before the pandemic will take more than a few nice weekends – but things are better than they have been.
“It’s just one of those things that we think our business will just pick up on every month in the future,” Dungan said.
And after last year, it’s a victory.
“Being open and being able to do all of that means we can do what we’re doing and bring live music to everyone,” Brooks added.
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The Cook County Public Health Department says it wasn’t just the decline in covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths that caused them to relax those restrictions. It’s also because more than 50% of residents aged 16 and over have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.