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Limited Indoor Dining Could Resume In Chicago By The Weekend

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The City of Chicago announced Thursday that limited indoor dining service could start by the weekend. The critical metrics they are tracking need to show improvement or stability over a three-day period, and if that happens, eateries could get the green light.

Small businesses are happy but hesitant after the announcement.

Logan Square's Daisies has adapted its business.

"We did add a market and grocery store into the back room here," said owner Joe Frillman.

But the farm-to-table restaurants has not used its dine-in tables in months.

"I'd like to see it to believe it because I've heard this before," Frillman said. "For us it is a lifeline that we are absolutely in need of."

If covid numbers stay consistent or improve long enough, Daisies could grow its indoor service from 0 to about 20 seats, which is about 25% capacity. That would mean serving an additional 50 people a night. It's more sale but hardly a windfall.

"We might break even," Frillman said. "That's the reality of it. At this point we're losing $15,000 to $20,000 dollars a month staying open."

However, for many restaurants, the cost to open indoor dining including supplies, wait staff and utilities is greater than the benefit of the limited capacity will allow in income.

"There could be 50% of restaurants still not doing it because no restaurant owner-operator ever put their restaurant business model together with 25% capacity," said Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association. 

Toia said the members are hoping there could be a reopening in the next 72 hours.

"We're definitely seeing a little bit of light at the end of this very dark tunnel," he said.

Toia said the news comes too late for an estimated 20% of restaurants that will close their doors due to COVID-19 restrictions. But restaurants like Daisies are hoping this will be the start of of desperately needed growth.

"The 25% is great, but it's not the solution," said Frillman.

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