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As Indoor Restaurant Capacity Expands Again Due To Falling COVID Cases, Some Restaurateurs Say It Will Make A Difference

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In another small win for Chicago restaurants on Tuesday, indoor dining capacity limits were increased again amid improving COVID-19 metrics.

Now, a total of 50 people or 40 percent capacity is allowed – whichever is smaller – in restaurants in both Chicago and suburban Cook County. CBS 2's Tara Molina asked restaurateurs if it would make a real difference.

Responses to this latest increase turned out to be mixed. Some called it a help, while others said with distancing rules in place, they can only accommodate so many tables.

But the manager at Osteria del Pastaio, 111 E. Chestnut St., said it is about time.

Pastaio, or pasta, is made fresh at the restaurant.

"It's a pasta-forward restaurant," said manager Irene Kijak.

That should be enough unto itself to draw a crowd to Osteria del Pastaio. But with capacity limits in place, they have only been able to serve about 25 people in the restaurant on a good night.

"I love it," Kijak said. "It's long overdue."

Indeed, Kijak was pleased about the maximum number of people allowed in a restaurant being moved up to 50 on Tuesday, with tables still limited to six.

For them, she said, it will mean bringing staff back into the restaurant.

"It'll be very helpful," Kijak said.

HEATED EATS: COVID-19 Cold-Weather Outdoor Dining In Chicago

The change comes with a change in Chicago's numbers - with Mayor Lori Lightfoot calling the cautious capacity expansion possible because of dropping COVID-19 cases across the city.

There have been fewer than 400 new cases per day.

City officials say another increase, to 50 percent, will be possible if Chicago's numbers are consistent for the next two weeks.

Restaurants still have to close for on-site service at midnight, with alcohol sales cut off at 11 p.m. That is something late-night bars and restaurants continue to fight.

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