Chicago to increase capacity limits for gyms, stores and restaurants, add mask requirement for diners

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WATCH ABOVE: Mayor Lightfoot joins city health and industry leaders in announcing new COVID-19 rules in Chicago Monday

CHICAGO — Chicago will be easing some restrictions on businesses later this week as COVID-19 infection rates in the city remain stable, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday.

Starting Thursday, capacity limits on businesses including bars, restaurants, gyms and “non-essential” retailers will increase from 25 percent to 40 percent, up to a maximum of 50 people.

“Our city has made sufficient progress in the fight against COVID-19 to ease some of the restrictions on our businesses and give them an opportunity to grow and earn more revenue as we head into the winter months,” Lightfoot said.

In addition to capacity limits of bars and restaurants increasing to 40 percent, they will now be allowed to serve alcohol for on-site consumption until 1 a.m.

But there are new rules for bar and restaurant customers as well, who will now be expected to wear masks whenever they are not “actively eating or drinking.”

While patrons were previously required to wear a mask while being seated or interacting with staff, they must now wear a mask unless they’re actively taking a bite or a drink. The new measure is meant to protect diners and employees, Lightfoot said.

“I know this requirement is a pain in the butt – lets be clear about it – but it’s absolutely necessary to protect you, protect other diners, and protect the employees who are coming to your table,” Lightfoot said. “When you leave, whatever you brought in stays, and the workers have to clean up and they’re putting themselves at risk.”

Here are the new coronavirus restrictions in Chicago

Ordering must also be limited to tableside only, while service is limited to two hours per party, and each party can include a maximum of six people. Restaurants and bars will also be required to retain a customers’ email or phone number for possible contact tracing.

Bars, taverns and breweries which don’t serve food were previously barred from allowing dining indoors, but can now open up indoor seating for up to 25 percent capacity. They will also be required to either partner with a food provider or allow customers to order food.

In addition to increasing capacity limits for gyms, fitness centers and after-school programs to 40 percent, the maximum group size will also increase from 10 to 15 people, although they still must wear masks at all times.

Personal services that require removal of face coverings including facials and shaves will now be allowed as well, although they will be limited to 15 minutes.

All businesses should also provide hand sanitizer for customers and employees to use upon entry, according to the city.

Lightfoot said the changes are being made “based on what we’re seeing in the data,” and are aimed at helping businesses increase their revenue ahead of the winter months.

“As we’re all aware COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on our businesses, who are forced to close their doors, furlough workers or even shut down in the early stages of the pandemic,” Lightfoot said. “This is in no way, shape, or form a sustainable economic environment.”