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Proposed tweak to outdoor dining policy worries Chicago restaurant, bar owners

Proposed tweak to outdoor dining policy worries Chicago restaurant, bar owners
Proposed tweak to outdoor dining policy worries Chicago restaurant, bar owners 02:26

CHICAGO (CBS) – It's patio season in Chicago, but the future of some pandemic-era outdoor dining areas may be in jeopardy thanks to a new proposal.

CBS 2's Charlie De Mar spoke to one bar owner who said it could mean last call for his business.

The owner of the Irish Nobleman said his extended patio saved him during the pandemic and that he's worried about being forced to close if he can't keep it open this summer.

From dinner in an igloo, to eating in the middle of a close road, creative options kept some restaurants and bars afloat during the pandemic.

"For a small business like ours, it's really hard to stay open and that really was a lifeline," said owner Declan Morgan.

The Irish Nobleman in West Town began using its loading zone for a massive patio, which allowed for an extra 200 seats. The expansion was such a financial success that Morgan has kept the patio until recently.

"So, we went out about 12 feet this way, went all the way to the alley," he said, showing CBS 2 the space.

Elliot Richardson, the president of the Small Business Advocacy Council, said restaurants have been operating without an actual outdoor dining ordinance on the books.

"The lack of clarity and uncertainty was very difficult for restaurants," Richardson said.

Mayor Brandon Johnson introduced an ordinance that keeps the expanded dining, but will give aldermen the power to approve or deny patio permits based on specific requirements.

"The filing of this ordinance has now started to provide the guidance, the clarity, and the certainty that restaurants and taverns are going to need moving into the summer," Richardson said.

The new aldermanic power to veto a patio permit has Morgan worried not just for his pub, but for all restaurants and bars.

"Without it, I don't know the future of Nobleman," he said.

On top of the possibility of not having his patio, Morgan said he's also dealt with the financial stress of several break-ins. The combination, he said, could close the Irish Nobleman for good.

"I'm just hoping the alderman agrees with the mayor and lets us get the patio back out there," Morgan said.

At this point, the ordinance has just been introduced. There is not a clear timetable on when or if bars and restaurants can set up those extended patios.

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