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Mayor Lori Lightfoot Says 'It's Way Past Time' To Allow Indoor Dining At Restaurants

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot said restaurants can't depend on outdoor dining alone to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic, and need to be able to reopen indoor seating "sooner rather than later" as she urged Gov. JB Pritzker to alter the state's reopening plan.

The governor's reopening plan allowed restaurants to serve customers at sidewalk cafes, patios, and other outdoor seating areas starting on May 29, but Lightfoot waited until June 3 to allow Chicago restaurants to do the same.

As she announced plans to reopen The 606 trail next week, Lightfoot said Thursday morning the state should also allow restaurants to open indoor dining before the next phase of the governor's "Restore Illinois" reopening plan.

"I do think that we can open up indoor dining, and do it safely, and I think sooner rather than later. This is something that I have been advocating for for some time, but we've not been able to make progress with the state, which is unfortunate," she said. "Restaurateurs who have been absolutely devastated and crushed by the stay-at-home order can't depend and really condition their livelihood, and that of their workers, on whether or not the weather is nice on a particular day. We are opening up indoor activities in other areas. It's way past time that we open up indoor dining, and I'm going to continue to push up for that very thing to happen. We can do it and we must do it safely."

Pritzker's reopening plan does not allow indoor dining at restaurants until Phase 4, which could begin as early as June 26. Phase 4 also would allow gyms and fitness clubs to reopen indoor facilities, cinemas and theaters to reopen, and public gatherings of up to 50 people. Schools, summer and fall programs, childcare, and higher education institutions also would be able to reopen with guidance from public health officials.

The mayor said officials are monitoring what's been happening in other states that have seen virus cases surge after reopening earlier than Illinois, and she said she is "very alarmed" at what she's seen, but she's confident Illinois can safely reopen indoor dining at restaurants, by making sure there are sufficient public health safeguards.

"I think that we can do this in a way that we do it safely, but we've got to be prudent and always put the public health data and conditions first and foremost in our mind," she said.

Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said the state's plan already allows restaurants to reopen indoor dining in little more than a week.

"The Restore Illinois plan clearly outlined that indoor dining would take place in phase four. As we learned more about the virus and the hospital metrics continued to improve, the Governor worked with the restaurant industry to reopen outdoor dining in phase three. Right now, every region in the state is on track to move to phase four on June 26, in just about one week. Indoor dining will open across the state with capacity limits and public health guidelines at that time. The City of Chicago would therefore be able to open indoor dining on June 26," Abudayyeh stated in an email.

Last week, Chicago Department of Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady said the city was on pace to move to Phase 4 of the reopening plan by July 1, but suggested the city could do so sooner if virus trends allow. However, Arwady was discussing the entire Phase 4 plan, not just indoor dining at restaurants.

For her part, Lightfoot declined to predict when the city would be ready to move to move entirely into the next phase of reopening.

"I don't look into a crystal ball," she said. "I can't predict a particular date. I don't think anybody truly legitimately can.Yyou have to be guided by the data, period."

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