Chicago strode into Phase 3 of its COVID-19 response on Wednesday, June 3, permitting the return of various activities and businesses, even as large protests continued around the city. Some Logan Square businesses threw their doors back open without delay, while others remained wary.
Under Phase 3, summarized by the city with the headline “Cautiously Reopen,” cafés and restaurants can open for in-person dining in outdoor areas only. (Delivery and pickup are still permitted, too.) “Outdoor dining” includes patio seating, rooftops, and indoor seating when removable walls and garage-door-style windows can open up at least 50% of the wall. Clothing and other “nonessential” retail stores can also join the essential grocery and drug stores that have remained in business all along. Phase 3 also permits the return of childcare and daycare centers, libraries and other city services, personal services like hair salons and tattoo parlors, medical services, and outdoor gym activities. Non-lakefront parks and other outdoor attractions will also see loosened restrictions, and public and private transit options will return.
All those returns come with various mandates on hygiene, social distancing and the monitoring of symptoms. You can find the city’s guidelines for the various phases here.
Outdoor Dining Returns
“We’re excited,” said Vick Sahajpal, general manager of (Old Plank 2700 N Milwaukee Ave.), which reopened for in-house dining Wednesday. “We’re going to be open today, obviously depending on the weather.” Early Wednesday, afternoon, Old Plank’s garage-type windows were thrown wide open, with one table of diners inside the restaurant. A masked server and masked bartender stood ready to tend to them.
Sahajpal said that Old Plank had adopted a score of health measures required by the city before reopening. All employees will undergo health screenings before beginning work and be sent home if they show any symptoms. Tables will remain unset, with condiments brought to the table only upon request, and high-touch surfaces will undergo extensive cleaning. Industry-specific guidelines from the city mandate that employees at restaurants frequently disinfect facilities, wear face coverings and post signage about hygiene, distancing and PPE (personal protective equipment, like masks). Employees and customers are also “encouraged” to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. Restaurants must complete an application process before opening for outdoor dining.
Beyond the COVID-19 concerns, Phase 3 also comes amidst ongoing protests of police violence, with vandalism and looting hitting businesses across the city. (Looting has been comparatively minor in Logan Square.) That environment had encouraged even some of the city’s grocery and drug stores, which had stayed open all along, to shutter their doors temporarily. Conditions also convinced some businesses permitted to return in Phase 3 to hold off. Longman & Eagle (2657 N. Kedzie Ave.), which has patio seating, had planned to open for regular outdoor dining on June 8. Now, however, the restaurant’s waiting, though it did open its patio seating today for customers to use after picking up food from the takeout window.
“With all the turbulence in the atmosphere, we’re playing it by ear,” said Dorothy Garcia, who currently works at Longman’s takeout window and was a barback at the restaurant before the shutdown.
“Our patio has been cleaned, and it’s ready for you to use, so just come on down,” Garcia said. No servers will tend to the patio tables for the time being.
The Old Plank’s sister restaurants — including Café Con Leche (2714 N. Milwaukee Ave.), Harding Tavern (2732 N. Milwaukee Ave.), Walk-In (2727 N. Milwaukee Ave.) and Saba (2715 N. Milwaukee Ave.), all owned by restauranteur Esam Hani — did not open Wednesday. UPDATE: By Thursday afternoon, June 4, Café Con Leche was serving customers outside, and Walk-In had its garage-door-style windows thrown open as bartenders prepped within. One staff member said that the spot planned to open at 3 p.m. Taste of Havana (2529 N. Milwaukee Ave.) also had its moveable walls thrown open Thursday, with a large “Now Open” sign displayed.
Phase 3 guidelines also permit rooftop dining, but a call to BiXi Beer (2515 N. Milwaukee Ave.), which has a rooftop area with a retractable covering, went unanswered.
Some Retailers Stay Closed
For nonessential retail and services, the city’s Phase 3 requirements call for frequent sanitization, 6-foot indicators placed throughout the store and sanitizing products available to customers. The guidelines also encourage contactless payment, physical distancing and the use of impermeable barriers.
But clothing and gift shop Wolfbait & B-girls (3131 W. Logan Blvd.) has no immediate plans to reopen for in-store shopping, said store co-owner Jenn Stadler. The retailer continues to sell online, however.
“We’re not going to make our employees come back now,” Stadler said. She added that the store was having trouble getting funds through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans for businesses affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns. That money can go to pay staff and cover rent and other expenses.
“It’s hard to have anyone work at the store besides my business partner and I,” said Stadler, who was in the store painting flowers on some merchandise for online sales. “We’re just feeling things out.”
While hair and nail salons can also return to business, with various precautions, several Logan shops waited a bit before reopening. Twisted Scissors (2007 North Point St.) said it would open June 8, and Art + Science (2569 N Milwaukee Ave.) planned to reopen for business June 15. Customers looking to book appointments at Art + Science should click on the “COVID-19” link on the shop’s website. The barbershop is not accepting inbound calls for appointments.
Phase 3 also permits social gatherings of 10 people or fewer, the use of parks for noncontact sports and socially distant exercising, and the opening of education and childcare facilities — with proper hygiene, masking and opened windows. Libraries and other city services may also reopen, though no one answered a call Wednesday afternoon to the Logan Square branch (3030 W. Fullerton Ave.).
Phase 3 Doesn’t Mean “All Clear”
The city’s “Cautiously Reopen” Phase 3 follows, naturally enough, Phase II, summed up as “Stay At Home.” Phase I was “Strict Stay At Home.” In Phase IV, “Gradually Resume,” more businesses could open and restrictions would further relax. Phase V, “Protect,” would return most activities and envisions signup for a vaccine. Transitions between the phases, the city says, are determined by health and economic data and input from experts and the public.
Chicago officials had set a goal of reaching 15% COVID-19 positivity rate before moving into Phase 3. That indeed happened, and the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths is on the decline, so the city went ahead with the move, Block Club reported.
In Chicago and nationally, officials have said that COVID-related restrictions, once loosened, could easily return if cases again rise. Reopening itself may lead to increased cases, and officials warned that the recent large protests could lead to an uptick over the next few weeks. Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, told Block Club that protestors should self-isolate for 14 days after attending a rally.
Arwady added that Chicago’s current infection rate, while lower than the peak, is higher than that of other large cities currently, with Los Angeles at 8% and New York at 6%. “Keep staying home if you’re even a little bit sick or you’ve been potentially exposed to someone with COVID,” she told Block Club. “Keep that 6-foot distance … Keep wearing the cloth face coverings.”
Featured photo: Old Plank reopened for in-person dining June 3. Photo: Michael Dhar