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Temps In Chicago Are Dropping, But Outdoor Dining Tents Are Going Up And 'Here To Stay'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As temperatures drop, tents are going up for outdoor, heated dining.

Now that eating inside is allowed, how much longer will tents and igloos be on city streets and sidewalks? CBS 2's Steven Graves reports from the West Loop where he spoke to restaurant owners who want to see them stay.

A greenhouse on the sidewalk that one owner said is not going away because COVID is still here.

A view from above Randolph street in the West Loop shows it. The familiar canopies coming back on sidewalks and streets as the frigid temperatures settle in.

"The COVID cases are not decreasing."

Which is why the owner of Tenoshii, Chen Ham, set up outdoor plants, lights and greenhouses on sidewalks again this year. This, is as indoor dining is now allowed.

"If I look at the reservation book, some people still want to separate from other people," Ham said.

"There are still a lot families who are not coming out to dine, especially families with kids who are not vaccinated."

Restaurant group owner Scott Weiner made something more permanent. He turned a summer sidewalk patio space in West Town to place to where people can eat outdoors from now on.

"It is here to stay. I wanted to have something I would continue to have forever," Weiner said.

Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said it will continue to allow special modifications like igloos for dining on public spaces. As long as the structures follow the long list of new expanded outdoor dining permit requirements.

No promise of this being permanent just yet. In New York City, the growing push from leaders to do so has prompted heated debate. Some residents are even suing the city. They said the special spaces bring issues like trash, noise and rats to neighborhoods.

In Chicago, restaurant owners certainly support the prospect of this staying. A way, they said, to make people feel safe.

"It's really those family diners who are going to make or break so many restaurants in the neighborhoods so do what you can do support them," Weiner said.

And as for a timeline on how long this will last, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot just signed an executive order hoping to extend the program until the end of next year.

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