Mayor Lori Lightfoot is proposing a new, improved — and permanent — program to the Chicago City Council. Get Whole Detail

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is proposing a new, improved — and permanent — program to the Chicago City Council.
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CHICAGO — The alfresco dining program that proved to be a lifesaver for Chicago restaurants and bars during the dark days of the pandemic will be made permanent and expanded across the boardwalk under a mayor’s plan proposed Wednesday.

Last year, the city council agreed to extend until December 31, 2022 a program that allows 500 restaurants and bars to set up tables along the streets, private parking lots and streets to serve guests who eat and drink. inner shame.

The program began in May 2020 when domestic food was banned in Illinois. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has tried to make alfresco dining more profitable by allowing restaurants with sidewalk cafe permits to set up even more tables.

It began by allowing six commercial streets to be closed to traffic during the lunch and evening hours. Bars were then given expanded outdoor seating, as long as they had “food partners” to deliver food to customers drinking al fresco.

The city eventually issued hundreds of licenses — a “vital lifeline” to about 700 different restaurants and bars. At the time, Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi promised to use lessons learned from neighborhoods to develop a sustainable program.

Lightfoot’s ordinance, introduced Wednesday, would fulfill that promise in this foodie city.

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“Continued construction of an expanded outdoor dining program will transform what was once a lifeline into long-term support and lead to the continuation and creation of dining options in our neighborhood,” Lightfoot said.

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“Many restaurants jumped at the chance. … They got more creative. … We want to make sure that we continue to do everything we can to help the hospitality industry get back on its feet and beyond the pre-disaster levels. This is another important step in this direction.”

Lightfoot thanked the countless number of restaurant owners who gave the city “tremendous feedback…

If the council approves the new program, the Chicago Department of Transportation will issue a “street food permit” valid from May 1 to October 31.

The new permit allows restaurant, bar and so-called “on-premises” licensees to “extend operations to the street” while also setting up tables around “where the adjacent sidewalk is insufficient to accommodate.” street cafes.”

Full street closures will still be allowed for groups of “three or more” businesses.

CONNECTIONS: The Chicago Alfresco program works with 15 community food organizations

The turning lane — “the space between the lane and the lane itself,” Biagi said — is now used for more tables.

That’s an improvement on the additional pedestrian crossings that forced pedestrians off the sidewalk to the side of the road, she explained.

“We realize we can do better,” she said. “So what we’re doing is…allowing the use of eateries to make sure we still have sidewalk access. We want pedestrians and people in wheelchairs and people with bicycles – we want you on the sidewalk. That would be a big step forward.”

Illinois Restaurant Association President and CEO Sam Toia said the roadblocks would pave the way for “hundreds” of more tables and improve the bottom line of restaurants still struggling with rising food prices, higher wages and understaffing.

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“They did a little pilot program like this at Lake View on Broadway. … You can have your curbside, and then you can have a few more tables in the parking lane. More tables mean more revenue for restaurants. Independent,” Toia said.

“You can always improve. But we were very happy with the al fresco dining. It was a lifesaver during the disaster. If we didn’t have that, we would be in the same situation as the restaurant community in New York. York and Los Angeles.”

Offensive comments from a McDonald’s manager? Lightfoot doesn’t like it

At a news conference after Wednesday’s council meeting, Lightfoot made no effort to hide her anger at McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski, who headlined a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago by questioning whether The city has a clear plan to combat crime and violence.

“What would help would be for the manager of McDonald’s to do his research before he speaks,” Lightfoot said, apparently referring to the decline in shootings and murders.

LaSalle’s future Loop includes apartments, the mayor said

Also Wednesday, Lightfoot said she is preparing to unveil a plan to “reclaim” Chicago’s famed LaSalle Street and replace some of those historic buildings with affordable housing, perhaps with the help of subsidies. the public.

“LaSalle Street is an important, iconic, historic part of the Central Business District. There’s been a lot of movement as law firms and banks have moved elsewhere. We just want to make sure that that part — really starts with the Board of Trade.” to Wacker – may it live,” said the Mayor.

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Google’s announcement, which I believe represents the largest downtown corporate expansion in our city’s history, gives us a real opportunity to rethink the vision of LaSalle Street to support these existing businesses, but also bring back We are giving back the opportunities for them in some of these historic buildings. .”

After Google purchased and occupied the renovated Thompson Center, Planning and Development Chairman Maurice Cox recently told The Sun-Times that he believes the future of LaSalle Street in the Loop lies in making this iconic street “the monoculture” of mixed-use corridor offices where people live.

“I truly believe this is an important part of LaSalle’s future and that many of the owners of these buildings who are seeing vacancies are seriously considering what it means to consolidate their buildings,” Cox said. told the Sun-Times. a few weeks.

“They have job anchors like the region. New technology depends on it like Google. And people can actually live in one of these beautiful historic buildings within a 15-minute walk of their job. The city is going to go to great lengths to try and Find a way to make this work for current owners.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire – Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2022.)

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