Sidewalk Cafes Allowed In Next Reopening Phase

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday said he's relaxing some restrictions in the next phase of his reopening plan and will allow bars and restaurants to serve diners outdoors, with restrictions. 

All of Illinois is set to move into "Phase 3" of his reopening plan on May 29, provided health metrics hold. 

Bars and restaurants that are able to serve customers outdoors during the warm weather can move forward, provided they are able to keep tables 6 feet apart and away from sidewalks and as long as servers wear masks, Pritzker said. Previously, restaurants would not have been allowed to serve dine-in customers until Phase 4 of Pritzker's plan. 

The governor said he consulted with restaurant industry representatives and health experts to determine how bars and restaurants might move earlier into serving customers on-site and agreed the al fresco option could work.

“The epidemiologists now believe that summer offers us an opportunity, if proper precautions are taken by businesses and their patrons,” Pritzker said. 

The governor's comments dovetail with ideas suggested recently by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who envisions street closures to create dining plazas outside this summer.

Another modification Pritzker announced is eased restrictions on other outdoor activities, such as boating and golfing, which will allow greater numbers of people to participate together. 

Also Wednesday, the governor said he was withdrawing an emergency rule to potentially punish businesses that reopen too soon, in hopes that state lawmakers will enact legislation with a similar intent. Pritzker had sought to give law enforcement the ability to cite businesses with a misdemeanor offense -- and a potential fine -- if they broke the state's stay-at-home order and social-distancing rules. 

Democrat Pritzker faced criticism from some lawmakers, especially Republicans, that he was overreaching. Leaders and business owners in some regions have complained they are being held back because of larger coronavirus casesloads in Chicago and Cook County.

The state's Department of Public Health announced 3,914 new cases of coronavirus, taking the Illinois tally of cases to 100,418 since the pandemic began. That includes 4,525 deaths related to COVID-19; 147 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.