Chicago restaurants push for increase in dining capacity

Chicago restaurants have upped the pressure on City Hall, saying they need more diners inside within days.

Wolcott Tap General Manager Lindsey Smith says allowing just a few more seats to be filled would make a huge difference.

"On a Friday or Saturday night, even if I have an open table, I have to turn people away," she said.


Owners of the neighborhood spot at Montrose and Wolcott joined others from the Chicago Restaurants Coalition to urge Mayor Lori Lightfoot to increase indoor dining capacity to 50 percent by Thursday, over the current 40 percent.

"Look, we’ve been open now 40 days. Our track record appears to be clear, restaurants are not super spreader sites," said Roger Romanelli, coordinator for the Chicago Restaurants Coalition.

For bigger restaurants like Pompeii in Little Italy, they want to up the limits on gatherings before spring's busy banquet season.

"We lose another full year of all those events, it’s a big component for our business," said Kim DiPofi.

This call goes beyond allowing more diners. The restaurant coalition also wants more city grants and more steps to prevent carjackings, which they say deter customers.

"People are typically coming to restaurants nights, weekends and as carjackings continue, are restaurants are going to lose significant sales," Romanelli said.

But the main demand is allowing more diners to have a seat.

"Having people in seats is how we make our money. We don't get the option to work from home. So, giving us the opportunity to have more people in the building is a game changer for us. That's the only way that we survive," Smith said.

The mayor's office has said the city is on the road towards 50 percent capacity.