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Welcome Back to Indoor Dining - What Restaurants and Bars Need to Know

Friday, June 26, 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 5:40 p.m. on Friday, June 26.



Welcoming Diners Back for Indoor Service


Today, restaurants and bars across the state of Illinois are welcoming diners back for indoor dining for the first time in over three months.

The IRA has worked for months to advocate for all forms of regulatory and financial relief for restaurants at the local, state, and federal levels. We have also collaborated with local and state officials in order to ensure that restaurants and bars have pragmatic regulations to safely reopen their establishments.

We urge all restaurants and bars to follow all necessary public health guidelines for your establishments in order to keep your customers and team members safe.

As states such as TexasFlorida, and Arizona are going backwards in their reopening efforts, it is imperative that Illinois' restaurants and bars keep on a steady and safe path to reopening.

Contact the IRA team anytime with questions about reopening guidelines, supply needs, legal guidance, vendor referrals, training and certification, and everything in between.

Review today's newsletter and visit our COVID-19 resource page to find the information you need for your business.


City of Chicago Phase IV Begins Today



Today, the city of Chicago transitioned into Phase IV. Restaurants are now permitted to resume indoor dining at 25% occupancy per room - or 50 people per room (whichever is fewer) - at the beginning of Phase IV.

As a reminder, under the amended and reissued Public Health Order 2020-05, all liquor sales for on-premises consumption at Chicago restaurants and bars must cease at 11:00 pm.

If your establishment sells liquor, all liquor sales must stop at 11:00 p.m. Food sales can continue until the time established on your retail food license.

All liquor sales of packaged goods for off-premises consumption, via delivery or carry-out, must cease at 9:00 pm.

Please read the industry notice and download the required posting for more information.

BACP has provided the following clarifications and guidance related to occupancy:

  • In order to determine 25% occupancy:

  • Use occupancy placard and divide by 4

  • OR, calculate square footage of indoor space and then divide by 60.

  • Restaurants should use total square footage to determine 25% occupancy, not just dining room space

  • Business owners may determine how a "room" is defined. The city's intention is that all rooms are fully separate

  • Staff should not be included in the 50 per room or capacity calculations

  • Tables and seats in a room where 50% or more of a wall can be removed via the opening of windows, doors, or panels do not count toward indoor occupancy, provided that dining tables are within 8-ft from such outdoor openings 

Click here to read the Phase IV - Gradually Reopen guidelines for restaurants and bars.

The IRA will continue to advocate for increases in indoor dining occupancy during Phase IV with necessary safety measures in place.

Key points from the Phase IV guidelines that are updated from the Phase III guidelines:

  • Each indoor room / floor is limited to no more than 50 individuals, while practicing social distancing, or 25% capacity (whichever is fewer)

  • No more than 10 people per table

  • For event venues / banquet halls, adhere to capacity and gathering restrictions for indoor / outdoor spaces (depending on setting)

  • All patrons must be seated; counter / bar seating allowed if 6 ft distancing can be maintained between customers (consider use of Plexiglas between customers and bartenders)

  • Cafeterias, buffets, or self-serve food may resume if an employee is serving the food and wearing proper PPE

The IRA has compiled the various operational guidelines that Chicago restaurants and bars must be aware of as they reopen, including: sidewalk café and expanded outdoor dining FAQs, federal paid sick leave requirements, cocktails to go regulations, 11:00 p.m. ending time for alcohol sales notice, and more.

Click here to review the guidelines.


City of Chicago Business Self-Certification for Reopening



The city of Chicago has developed an updated self-certification program for businesses that plan to reopen in Phase IV. Employers are highly encouraged to indicate their ability to comply with the city's standards by completing the self-certification process.

Click here to read more and take the self-certification.


State of Illinois Phase IV Begins - Guidelines for Restaurants


As of today, Friday, June 26, all four regions of the state have transitioned into Phase IV of the Restore Illinois framework for reopening. Earlier this week, Governor J.B. Pritzker released the Restore Illinois Phase IV Guidelines for Reopening for various industries, including restaurants and bars. Click here to read the full announcement.

Click here to read the Phase IV Guidelines for indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants and bars.

There is no set capacity cap for restaurants and bars based on percentage of occupancy or number of people during Phase IV. Seated area capacity of restaurants and bars should be determined by arranging seating to provide a minimum of six feet between tables or other designated patron service areas.

Indoor dining can reopen with groups of 10 or less, with tables spaced 6-feet apart in seated areas and with standing areas at no more than 25% of capacity. Capacity restrictions will be reassessed based on the latest science and public health metrics on an ongoing basis throughout Phase IV.

Additional guidelines to note:

  • For booth seating, employers may use consecutive booths to serve patrons of unrelated parties only if employer installs an impermeable barrier with a height of 6-ft or greater from the floor between booths. Use of barriers should not impede entry/ exit or impose a fire risk. Use of plexiglass is a best practice.

  • Buffets and self-service food stations (e.g. hot and cold bars, bulk items, baked goods) are permitted, and should adhere to minimum additional guidelines.

  • Hotel meeting rooms and ballrooms, as well as other indoor and outdoor event venues (excluding arenas, stadiums, and other mass gathering venues) must adhere to the state's Meetings and Social Events Guidelines.

  • Meetings and social events are limited to lesser of 50 guests with or 50% of overall room capacity.

A state of Illinois Phase IV reopening toolkit for restaurants and bars is also available here.

Restaurants and bars located in the city of Chicago must follow the city's Phase IV - Gradually Reopen guidelines for restaurants and bars. Restaurants and bars should refer to local authorities and health departments for additional guidelines during Phase IV.


Senator Durbin Visits Farm Bar on First Day of Indoor Dining



Today, IRA Treasurer TJ Callahan, owner of Farmheads, welcomed Senator Dick Durbin to Farm Bar in Lakeview for lunch and a restaurant tour during the first day of reopened indoor dining in Chicago.

The IRA thanks Senator Durbin for his ongoing support of the restaurant and hospitality industry during incredibly difficult times.


What to Do When a COVID-19 Case Has Been Reported 


The IRA has developed a guide of protocols to follow when a confirmed COVID-19 case has been in your facility.

The guide includes: general best practices, cleaning and disinfecting policies, employee leave requirements, notification templates, and more.

Click here to review the guidelines.


Video Gaming Can Resume Wednesday, July 1


Yesterday, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) announced that the state of Illinois’ 10 casinos and 36,000 video gaming terminals can resume operations on Wednesday, July 1. Click here to read the full announcement.

The Gaming Board earlier this month released guidelines for reopening both casinos and resuming video gaming and required casino and video game terminal operators to submit plans for the safe resumption of gaming for approval of the plans.

Casino attendance will be capped at 50 percent capacity and gamblers must wear face masks while inside. Traditional trappings of casinos like buffets and table game tournaments will not be allowed.

Video game terminal operators were required to either install barriers like plexiglass between machines or otherwise move the machines at least six feet apart.

Click here to read the guidelines for video gaming.


State of Illinois Business Interruption Grant Application


Today, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) opened the application for the first round of Business Interruption Grants (BIG). The BIG program will provide $60 million to businesses experiencing losses or business interruption as a result of COVID-19 related closures. Click here to start an application. 

  • The BIG Program is available for up to 3,500 businesses that experienced a limited ability to operate due to COVID-19 related closures.

  • DCEO will begin distributing funds to qualifying businesses in early July.

  • The total program funding will amount to at least $540 million in grants for small businesses, $270 of which has been set aside for childcare providers, and is funded by the CARES Act.

In the first wave of grants, priority will be given to small businesses that have been heavily restricted or completely shut down during the pandemic and are located in disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs).

  • Businesses eligible for the program must have experienced extreme hardship, demonstrated by eligible costs or losses in excess of the grant amount, since March and may continue to face depressed revenues or closure.

  • Businesses must also have been in operation for at least three months prior to March 2020.

  • An emphasis will also be placed on those businesses that are located in areas that have experienced recent property damage due to civil unrest, exacerbating the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Specifically, the program includes support for:

  • Businesses in DIAs - $20 million for businesses that are located in a subset of DIAs that have recently experienced significant property damage, providing 1,000 grants of $20,000 each

  • Bars and Restaurants - $20 million for bars and restaurants unable to offer outside service, providing at least 1,000 grants of up to $20,000 each

  • Restaurants and bars with under $3 million in annual sales will be eligible to apply

  • Barbershops and Salons - $10 million for barbershops and salons, providing 1,000 grants of $10,000 each

  • Gyms and Fitness Centers - $10 million for gyms and fitness centers that have lost significant revenue due to COVID-19, providing 500 grants of $20,000 each


City of Chicago Guidance on COVID-19 Related Surcharges



The City of Chicago's Department of Finance has issued guidance to ensure restaurants and customers understand the proper treatment of the COVID related "surcharge" that some restaurants have started to collect during these unprecedented times.

The rate of the City’s restaurant tax is .50% of the "selling price" of all food and beverages sold. The term "selling price" means "the consideration for a sale" and "shall be determined without any deduction on account of the cost of the property sold, the cost of materials used, labor or service cost or any other expense whatsoever..."

Accordingly, any "surcharge" restaurant customers are required to pay for food or beverages is considered taxable and should be included in the basis upon which the restaurant tax is calculated.

In addition, it is important to note that any such "surcharge" is not a tax and should not be designated as such on any price list or invoice.

Please contact with any questions about this matter or other tax questions.

Click here to read the notice.


Rubio Bill - Stimulus Money for U.S. Citizens Married to Non-Citizens


This week, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced The American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act, which would amend the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens who jointly file taxes with a spouse that does not have a Social Security Number (SSN) from receiving a recovery rebate.

This bill would ensure a U.S. citizen will not be denied federal coronavirus assistance because he or she is married to a foreign national who is not currently a citizen of the United States. The American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act maintains the SSN requirement but would allow U.S. citizens to receive Economic Impact Payment (EIP) the same way a single tax filer would.

Click here to read more.


Take Our Two Minute Indoor Dining Reopening Survey



The Illinois Restaurant Association is currently surveying restaurants and bars around the state to determine the status of reopening indoor dining during Phase IV of Restore Illinois. 

Please take two minutes to complete our survey to share your current plans and any challenges you are facing.

Click here to complete the survey.

Click here to review the state of Illinois Phase IV guidance for restaurants and bars. Operators must also look to their local municipalities and health departments for further guidance. The city of Chicago's Phase IV reopening guidance for restaurants and bars can be found here.


Available in English and Spanish - Illinois Restaurant Promise



In partnership with the IRA and health officials across the state, restaurant owners and operators make these commitments to earn this endorsement during the COVID-19 recovery period. 

When customers see this endorsement, they can be comfortable that the restaurant is taking all necessary steps to protect their employees and customers and is committed to playing a leadership role in protecting our communities.

Download the poster in English and Spanish for your establishments.

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