From Block Club Chicago: Lakeview Leaders Want To Close Side Streets To Create More Outdoor Seating For Restaurants

From Block Club Chicago – The closures could begin as early as June 19 and are expected to run Friday evenings through Sunday.

LAKEVIEW — More temporary street closures have been planned in Lakeview to give reopening restaurants more space to expand their outdoor dining.

Friends of Lakeview, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, announced its “Dine Out” plan Tuesday to create outdoor, communal dining spaces on weekends by closing off side streets near neighborhood commercial centers.

If a restaurant’s patio seating is full, customers can order to-go and eat in one of these enclosed spaces, which will have about 30 tables that are spread at least six feet apart, according to Carisa Marconet, events and marketing director of the chamber.

The closures could begin as early as June 19 and are expected to run Friday evenings through Sunday, depending on city permit approval and funding. The streets under consideration for the program include:

  • Grace Street from Southport Avenue to the western alley;
  • Cornelia Avenue, east of Southport to the alley;
  • Henderson Street from Southport to the western alley;
  • Wellington Avenue, west of Lincoln Avenue to the alley; and
  • Paulina Street, south of Roscoe Street to the alley.

“We wanted to have a few closures throughout the neighborhood so we can spread it out rather than creating one big gathering of people,” Marconet said. “It also allows for more restaurants to take advantage of these spaces.”

Marconet said they hope to create additional outdoor spaces where retailers can offer sidewalk sales or markets.

Each dining site will cost between $1,500 to $2,000 per weekend to maintain, which includes equipment, furniture, cleaning supplies and hiring staff to oversee and sanitize each space.

Some funding for the program comes from Special Service Area 27, but it will mostly be supported by sponsorships and tax-deductible donations. Visitors are also encouraged to leave a donation if they use the space.

The side street proposal follows a city pilot program that closed traffic on major restaurant corridors to create more outdoor dining space, including on Broadway from Belmont Avenue to Diversey Parkway in Lakeview.

Dillon Goodson, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes the outdoor spaces will help restaurants recover from the financial loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A survey conducted by the Lakeview chamber in April found that the average neighborhood business projected its income would be down by at least 80% that month.

Last week, when Chicago reached Phase 3 of recovery and non-essential businesses could finally begin reopening, people were lined up outside Lakeview restaurants, eager to be their first patio customers.

“People came out in a major way last weekend to support local business in Lakeview, and we’re so grateful for that,” Goodson said. “But it’s clear that as summer goes on, we’ll need more capacity so our restaurants can recover and diners won’t be turned away by long wait times.”

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