• Alex Nitkin
    JUN 11, 2020

    Expedited sidewalk permitting process proposed to boost outdoor restaurant service

    City licensing officials would be able to fast-track applications for restaurants and cafes to serve customers outdoors under a temporary measure set to be considered by aldermen Thursday.

    The measure (O2020-2891) set to be taken up by the City Council Committee on Transportation and Public Way at its 2 p.m. meeting Thursday would empower Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Comm. Rosa Escareño to unilaterally approve sidewalk permit applications for businesses that “meet the requirements.” That power typically falls to aldermen, who approve dozens of such permits during each meeting of the transportation committee.

    Escareño has publicly reiterated this month that she was working with council members to create an “expedited permit process” so that restaurants can more easily serve food in compliance with phase three of the city’s Covid-19 reopening plan. Multiple aldermen have also called for the change.

    The measure also sets some legal terms for restaurants that want to expand seating into the street on the six Chicago corridors where they are allowed to do so. For example, a restaurant that sets up street seating may not block the facade of another business.

    Related: Lightfoot denounces Trump, expands outdoor dining along restaurant corridors

    Additionally, the ordinance cuts application fees in half for any business seeking out a sidewalk permit. It would also allow businesses to apply for “special event liquor licenses” that would last up to 180 days, instead of the typical 11 days.

    If approved, the liquor license provision will expire at the end of this year, and the rest of the ordinance will sunset on March 1, 2021.

    The committee is also scheduled Thursday to approve more than 300 new permits for sidewalk cafes — almost all for businesses located downtown or on the city’s North or Northwest Side — as well as dozens of permits for signs, awnings, street vacations and honorary street signs.

    The City Council Committee on Pedestrian & Traffic Safety is also scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Thursday. Its seven-page agenda includes individual parking permits and the approval of three new stops signs, including two in the 11th Ward.

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