Chicago bars lacking outdoor seating or food ordered shut for indoor service… again. It’s time to offer them funds for damages caused by these unfounded decisions about closing – there’s an interesting bill from New Jersey that offers some good insight about why and how to do that.
Chicago liquor licensees without access to outdoor seating are ordered shuttered for indoor service once again beginning Friday, July 24. This comes less than a month after they were allowed to re-open on a limited capacity and took substantial steps and investments in PPE and other measures to meet guidelines for Chicago liquor licensees and Illinois liquor license requirements.
The press release detailing the renewed restrictions lists the following restrictions:
- Bars, taverns, breweries and other establishments that serve alcohol for on-site consumption without a Retail Food license will no longer be able to serve customers indoors.
- Restaurants that serve alcohol will be allowed to continue to operate as long as they abide by ongoing COVID-19 guidance and existing regulations.
- Establishments without food may still provide outdoor service as they did under phase three.
- Maximum party size and table occupancy at restaurants, bars, taverns and breweries will be reduced to six people.
- Indoor fitness class size will be reduced to a maximum of 10 people.
- Personal services requiring the removal of face coverings will no longer be permitted (shaves, facials, etc.).
- Residential property managers will be asked to limit guest entry to five per unit to avoid indoor gatherings and parties
The decision to close the alcohol-only indoor Chicago liquor licensees still fails to address the objections and criticisms voiced when Chicago restaurant licensees were allowed to open and serve alcohol, but Chicago bar licensees were precluded, e.g., that no one is ordered to buy food, so you can sit in a restaurant and drink, but not a bar; that the distinction about liquor licenses and restaurant licenses fails to deal with the important issue of the safety standards and procedures the bar or restaurant operators emplace. Moreover, it reinstates a ban premised largely in old and poor data and does not take into account new data available regarding impacted zones within the City of Chicago such as COVID-19 cases by zip code, that could be used in determining where or how to close.
These hardships for Chicago’s hospitality industry, largely premised in unfounded beliefs held by legislators that bars are somehow COVID-19 hotspots, require additional support for an embattled hospitality community from the states and municipalities making knee-jerk determinations. These measures border on takings and should be treated as such by the lawmakers imposing them. Money should be paid, especially to bars and other businesses ordered shuttered out of “an abundance of caution” and not based on proven outbreaks, bad acts, failure to follow guidelines. These places put time and effort into compliance – many doing it better than restaurants or places with outdoor seating.
A recent bill in New Jersey provides good justification for these measures in a statement appended to a bill appropriating funds for bars and restaurants for this type of situation. The bland language of appropriation is followed by a “statement” providing a good example for the measures states and municipalities like Chicago should take to help bars and other businesses caught by the expanding-contracting-expanding cycle of what appears to be the new normal for hospitality operations in the COVID-19 era.
Under the proposed legislation, New Jersey would pay companies from a fund established for the state under the federal CARES Act.
Here’s what the New Jersey Senate Bill S2704 looks like:
Appropriates $30 million to EDA from federal “Coronavirus Relief Fund” to assist food establishments impacted by Executive Order No. 158.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act allocating federal funding to assist food establishments and making an appropriation.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
- a. There is appropriated from the General Fund to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority the sum of $30 million from a portion of those federal block grant funds allocated to the State from the federal “Coronavirus Relief Fund,” established pursuant to the federal “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” Pub.L.116-136, for use by the authority to provide financial support, by way of loans or grants, to food establishments for the costs associated with business operation interruptions caused by Executive Order No. 158.
- The authority shall adopt rules and regulations pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to effectuate the purposes of this act.
- This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill appropriates $30 million to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority from a portion of those federal block grant funds allocated to the State from the federal “Coronavirus Relief Fund,” established pursuant to the federal “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” Pub.L.116-136, for use by the EDA to provide financial support, by way of loans or grants, to food establishments for costs associated with business operation interruptions caused by Executive Order No. 158.
Over the past four months, the State has been confronting the viral disease known as coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19), which has necessitated certain emergency measures to curtail its spread. As part of these measures, on March 21, 2020, the Governor signed Executive Order No. 107, which directed all residents to stay at home until further notice and closed all non-essential businesses to the public. This order affected thousands of businesses and especially food establishments, some of whom shuttered their doors permanently. In the months following this order, subsequent orders have been signed lifting these restrictions as cases of COVID-19 have fallen, and since June 15, 2020, food establishments have been able to offer outdoor dining service, which has helped recoup some of their losses.
In light of this progress, on June 26, 2020, the Governor, as part of his administration’s reopening plan, signed Executive Order No. 157, which allowed food establishments to offer indoor dining service, with limitations. This order, originally scheduled to go into effect on July 2, was a source of added relief for food establishments who were struggling financially, even after the reopening of outdoor dining. Yet, with hospitalizations for COVID-19 having fallen 90 percent since April, and with the State on track to contain the disease, the Governor reversed his decision to reopen indoor dining, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases in other states. This decision, formalized under Executive Order No. 158, severely affected food establishments who hired additional staff and equipment in anticipation of reopening, and may lead some establishments to close permanently.
Under this bill, $30 million will be allocated to the EDA from the “Coronavirus Relief Fund” in order to financially support food establishments impacted by Executive Order No. 158. By providing this support, an important part of our State’s economy and culture will be protected.
There’s no argument as between not reopening at all and reopening for less than 4 weeks, so that distinction (if you’re making it) is silly. If the City of Chicago or the State of Illinois are looking for a blueprint for how to proceed to help these institutions that are taking it on the chin based on prejudiced and unfounded determinations about taverns, there’s ample guidance for how to proceed.