Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called to reopen the city’s restaurants and bars on Thursday, saying the measure would help curb the spread of underground parties that pose a relatively greater risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Illinois’s mitigation plan forced the closure of indoor dining in Chicago in October. While nearly ever major city in the U.S. has severely limited or outright banned indoor dining to control the spread of the coronavirus, Lightfoot called to reinstitute indoor dining with precautions.
“People are engaging in risky behavior that is not only putting themselves at risk, but putting their families, their co-workers, and other ones at risk. Let’s bring it out of the shadows,” Lightfoot told reporters on Thursday, in comments reported by CBS Chicago. The mayor was referring to underground parties held by residents.
“Let’s allow them to have some recreation in restaurants, in bars, where we can actually work with responsible owners and managers to regulate and protect people from COVID-19,” Lightfoot added.
The mayor has attempted to avoid blaming indoor dining for spreading coronavirus, saying in October that a rise in cases in Chicago was not linked to restaurants.
“That’s not what we’re seeing in the data at all,” Lightfoot told reporters at the time.
Chicago is currently in Illinois’s “tier 3” of coronavirus restrictions, which bars indoor dining and puts capacity limits on other businesses. Restaurants across the northern U.S. are struggling to maintain outdoor dining in the middle of winter. Dozens of restaurants in Chicago have permanently closed, according to Timeout.
Chicago has recorded over 424,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, and close to 9,000 residents have died after contracting the illness.
The city has also struggled with mass riots, protests, and looting in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed by Minneapolis police in late May. Looters overran Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a noted shopping district, in August.