Chicago restaurants ask city leaders to expand dining capacity ahead of Valentine's Day weekend

Chicago restaurants limping along over the past year are hoping to put some spring in their step.

But the timing has to be right. They are pushing for a bigger reopening and fast.

With Valentine’s Day this weekend, restaurants struggling to keep their doors open are hoping the city will have a change of heart and increase indoor dining capacity.

"Valentine's Day is an important holiday for restaurants, the COVID rate is down, we think the time is right," said Roger Romanelli, coordinator of The Chicago Restaurants Coalition.

Right now, under the city's current Phase 4 restrictions, bars and restaurants, like Hawkeye’s Bar & Grill in Little Italy, can seat people indoors at 25% capacity or 25 people per space.

"We are struggling like every other restaurant in the city," said co-owner Jimmy Venn.

But with the city's positivity rate at 4.9 percent, members of The Chicago Restaurants Coalition are calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the 50 alderman to increase indoor dining to 50% capacity or 50 people by this Friday, just in time for Valentine's Day weekend.

"50% would be a huge, huge impact," Venn said.

The coalition is also asking city leaders for more money for grants for restaurants and to prevent crime, like carjackings, because they say that will help make diners feel safer.

"We had two crime incidents here, and one of which was they kicked in the door right here on Taylor Street. That would never happen if we had a lot of foot traffic as we did before," said Hawkeye’s Bar & Grill advisor Len DeFranco.


When asked if she is considering an increase on capacity, Mayor Lightfoot said she believes further guidance will be issued later this week.

"This is something that we spent some time talking about over the course of the weekend and I don't want to get ahead of the announcement that we'll make later this week," Lightfoot said.

The co-owner at Hawkeye’s was optimistic about the mayor's response and says if she ups capacity to 50%, they will have a Valentine’s Day card and dinner waiting for her.