“Apres Ski” Version of Outdoor Dining in Chicago’s Winter

A few summers ago, I interned at the City of Chicago with the Department of Buildings, Easy Permit Department, and the Electrical Signage Permit Department. As I electronically processed applications and forwarded them to the appropriate department advisors for approval, the number of outdoor permit requests was not deemed as urgent priority for the restaurant industry.

Since the world has turned upside with such bizarre, unpredictable circumstances, restaurants have been trying to do everything to stay above the shallow line. Not only are permit approvals for outdoor dining desperately needed, but also permits are needed for tents, overhangs, signage, and curbside pickup, as well as extending permits into winter.

As we shudder at the thought of “the windchill advisories”, I can only imagine the mayhem at the City Hall. This would be like imagining the elevation level of the snow capped Rocky Mountains in Aspen rising nonstop, with papers flying everywhere.

As a downtown city dweller, I am pleased to learn of such a magnitude of sponsors, partnerships, and collaboratives working with the city of Chicago, the Illinois Restaurant Association, and other local non-profits.

On August 6th, a webinar Maximizing Your Guest Space, was organized by architects and planners with the Illinois Restaurant Association and City Open Workshop on the focus of reopening restaurants in Chicago for summer 2020.

In compliance with the current CDC standards for the city, Chicago’s “Cautious” Guidance as of 09/18/20, the spacing out of tables with the backs of chairs at six feet, mask and glove-clad staff, temperature checks, and outdoor hostess stands, are guidelines currently or at least attempting to enforce.

This webinar continues with concerns on how can the city leverage open space for equity and community opportunities, while complying with the most updated guidelines as we move forward.

Curbside pick up and take home kits became excellent approaches to keep patrons happy and help generate profits for the industry. This is still currently ongoing for the city of Chicago.

Full street closure plans require tables at at 6 foot in between, then 14 foot min. space between two main sections of tables for pedestrian, biking, and emergency access.

Partial street closures require all of the same above but allow for flexible posts to protect a bikers lane from cars, narrow the field of vision for drivers, and to slow down traffic.

Applying, purchasing, and receiving approval from the City of Chicago for sidewalk permits as well as paying more for extending the time period requested is of major concern today.

ADA access considerations of at least 8 foot clear path in through ways, maintaining constant traffic, leeway for curbside pickup, and unpredictable weather conditions were also thoughts to ponder.

For further viewing of the webinar, please kindly view link.

As we go through a pilot program, we learn, we collaborate with other industries, and we try to do better, no matter what scale.

The next part of this commentary includes locally published articles on where the restaurant industry is at right now. The timing is crucial as we approach season changes and perseverance.

One of the articles below includes guidelines to consider for the future for fire safety outdoors. Another article discusses the challenges of investing in enhanced air filtration devices for tables. Lastly, the idea of “apres ski” is an excellent example of extending outdoor dining into the winter with fire pits and heated benches.

Again, I am pleased to see how much effort the city and the Illinois Restaurant Association both have invested. Hopefully, all this will be a positive example for other cities for a safer, positive path towards the light at the end of this tunnel.

My best of luck! Enjoy for further reading!

Dining With Heaters, Plastic Domes, and Blankets? 08/12

How to Make the Best Out Of Covid Winter 09/11

Uneasy Dance With the Landlord 09/18

Chicago Releases Outdoor Dining Guidelines, But Some Restaurants Worry 09/21

Nonnina, my all time favorite Italian style restaurant 10/02

Winter Design Challenge Winners Announced 10/08

West Loop Restaurant Adds Air Quality Improvements as Temperatures Drop 10/010

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