While many restaurants only sat customers outside during the summer, colder temperatures begin to pose problems for Chicago’s dining scene. As the city heads into winter, COVID-19 cases are predicted to rise.
According to the city of Chicago’s COVID dashboard, the positivity rate of cases reached a record 13% in early November – leading Governor J.B. Pritzker to impose an indoor dining ban that started Nov. 4 which prohibits any indoor food or bar service until there is a significant decline in COVID-19 cases.
Even if the ban on indoor dining was lifted, U-High students believe it is too unsafe during the pandemic and people should consider other options before dining inside.
For senior Ian Scroll, eating indoors is significantly more risky than eating outdoors.
“I’m a little bit skeptical of it. I guess I haven’t personally eaten inside yet, because I don’t really want to, even if it is socially distanced, I think it is a little unsafe to eat inside.”
Junior Jonah Schloerb echoes Ian, and believes indoor dining is not necessary.
“I personally don’t think that it’s a great idea, because I feel like it poses a lot of risks that are just easily avoidable with takeout. I feel like if you are trapped in a room with a bunch of other people, that’s not the best thing during this time.”
Jonah also suggests eating at home as an alternative to indoor dining that can bring family together.
“We’ve been mostly cooking at home. Originally, when my sister was still at home, because she goes to college outside of Illinois, we had sort of a rotation and me and my sister would cook a meal once a week.”
Sophomore Lauren Tapper agrees with the indoor dining ban by Pritzker and believes people will change their dining routines and take coronavirus more seriously.
“Now that people are seeing that the city is taking these precautions again, I think that’s going to affect their patterns and hopefully encourage them to stay home and stop going out.”
Before the recent ban on indoor dining, restaurants in Illinois were given orders by public health officials to follow safety protocols and limit the number of customers they have inside.
Sophomore Ella Hultquist said she had eaten inside a restaurant once over the summer. There were only two other families inside with her, but Ella and her family still had doubts about their safety.
“The only thing that made us all a little uncomfortable was that some of the staff would wear their masks, and then we could see them go into the kitchen and take them off. That kind of defeats the whole purpose of wearing a mask. I think that kind of made me realize I didn’t feel comfortable, just because you don’t really see what’s going on after they leave your table, or anyone else at the restaurant, or who sat at your table before. It made me realize sitting outside is just a safer experience.”
According to Senior Naomi Corlette, it’s likely for restaurants to come across problems like the ones Ella experienced when it comes to adhering to public health guidelines.
“I think some restaurants will take the time to really follow precautions, but I’m sure there are also others that will want to prioritize their customers and their profits.”
To stay open during the winter, restaurants across the city are finding ways to seat customers outside comfortably. Heaters, fire places, and even heated plastic igloos are appearing on roofs and outside of many Chicago restaurants such as The Hampton Social and Piccolo Sogno.
Lauren says she will be willing to eat at restaurants that are taking these measures during the winter.
“I think it’s especially hard for small businesses and small restaurants right now, so if it is warmer and that restaurant does provide outdoor and safe dining, I would definitely go and try and support that restaurant.
Despite outdoor options, Naomi believes people will be more likely to dine indoors as the pandemic drags on.
“I mean a lot of it probably comes with COVID fatigue and wanting to go back to some sense of normalcy, especially since now that it’s getting colder it’s harder to follow guidelines because we don’t have the outside area.”
Ultimately, indoor dining feels unsafe to many at the moment, but people can still enjoy their favorite restaurants in other ways.