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Chicago Sidewalk Cafe, Outdoor Dining FAQ

Friday, May 29, 2020  
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The Illinois Restaurant Association continues to engage with local, state, and federal officials to help our employers and employees address concerns about COVID-19.

Please see the below resources and information for your business - updated as of 7:00 p.m. on Friday, May 29.



Chicago Outdoor Dining, Sidewalk Cafe FAQ for Phase 3 Reopening



This evening, the city of Chicago released an FAQ overview of the outdoor dining options for restaurants and coffee shops during Phase III of the Protecting Chicago Reopening Framework.

What type of outdoor dining is allowed?

During Phase III, restaurants and coffee shops can open for outdoor dining. This includes seating areas that are fully outdoors, in addition to:

  • Rooftops

  • Rooms with retractable roofs

  • Indoor spaces where 50% or more of a wall can be removed via the opening of windows, doors, or panels, provided that dining tables are within 8 feet from such openings

What licenses and/or permits do I need to open for outdoor dining?

To open in Phase III for outdoor dining, an establishment must have a Retail Food Establishment license from the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP). Establishments are required to have a Tavern or Consumption on Premises-Incidental Activity license in order to serve alcohol.

To operate a room with a retractable roof, or an indoor space where 50% or more of a wall can be removed via the opening of windows, doors, or panels, operators will not need any additional permits or licenses if those spaces are currently licensed.

To operate a rooftop or outdoor patio on private property, operators will need to hold the corresponding Outdoor Patio License if they serve alcohol. This is an existing, permanent license type. Note: this license is not required if the operator does not serve alcohol.

To operate on the sidewalk directly adjacent or in close proximity to the licensed establishment, operators will need to hold a Sidewalk Café PermitThis is an existing permit. Click here to review the process for applying for a sidewalk cafe permit.

To operate in the street or on other private property (i.e., parking lots), operators will need to obtain approval for Expanded Outdoor Dining. This is a new process created specifically for temporary phase three outdoor dining.

How do I obtain approval for Expanded Outdoor Dining?

Applications and more information will be available at beginning on June 1. Applications must be submitted by Chambers of Commerce, SSAs, Business Associations or by 3 or more establishments applying together. 

What guidance must restaurants and coffees shops follow during Phase III?

In addition to opening only for eligible outdoor dining, all restaurants and coffee shops are expected to adhere to the following guidance:

  • Tables must be spaced 6 feet apart

  • Limit dining to no more than 6 people per table

  • Limit gatherings to no more than 10 individuals

  • Ensure protective gear is worn by employees and guests (face coverings can be removed while customers are seated and eating)

Click here to read the FAQ.

Click here to read the full outdoor dining guidelines for the city of Chicago during Phase III. 



ICYMI: Mayor Lightfoot Announces Street Closures for Outdoor Dining, Liquor-Licensed Restaurants Can Serve Alcohol On Premise Outdoors Until 11:00 p.m.



This afternoon, Mayor Lightfoot announced the city's plans to convert streets, or portions of those streets and cross-streets, in key commercial corridors throughout the City into expanded outdoor dining, providing much needed relief to restaurants of all sizes. After the initial pilots have launched, the City will evaluate the potential to expand programming to other areas in the City.

Click here to read the City's press release. Click here to watch a recording of the announcement. IRA President & CEO Sam Toia joined Mayor Lightfoot for the press conference earlier today.

"Today, Mayor Lightfoot and the city of Chicago are taking clear actions to support our world-class restaurant community in our time of need," said Toia. "Closing down streets to allow expanded outdoor dining in Chicago’s neighborhoods is an innovative measure to help reopen our economy. This announcement today is not a solution for every restaurant in Chicago, but it is another pragmatic and crucial step forward in the path to recovery."

The six pilot streets included in the program are:

  • Chatham: 75th Street from Calumet Avenue to Indiana Avenue

  • Lakeview: Broadway from Belmont Avenue to Diversey Parkway

  • Little Village: 26th Street from Central Park to Harding Avenue

  • Rush & Division: Rush Street from Oak Street to Cedar Street 

  • Near West Side: Taylor Street from Loomis Street to Ashland Avenue

  • West Loop: Randolph Street from Expressway no further than Elizabeth Street

Beginning Monday, June 1, chambers of commerce, SSAs, business associations and restaurants in groups of three or more can visit the City website to submit an application for Expanded Outdoor Dining. This will allow for existing, fully licensed Retail Food Establishments to temporarily use streets or private property for outdoor dining and drinking until 11:00 p.m.

Furthermore, restaurants with outdoor dining and a valid liquor license can sell alcohol at their establishment for on-premise, outdoor consumption until 11:00 p.m. The City’s 9:00 p.m. liquor sales curfew remains in effect for to-go sales of alcohol at all retail establishments.

More information on the application process and supporting documents will be made available on the website, as well, and the City will be hosting multiple informational sessions with potential applicants in the coming days.

Read more:


Outdoor Dining Begins June 3

Yesterday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that Chicago will begin a partial reopening of restaurants and other businesses on Wednesday, June 3Click here to read the full announcement.

Click here to download the full guidelines for dining at restaurants in Phase III.

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