CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- This past weekend marked the first attempt to close off streets for Chicago’s new outdoor dining program, but enforcing social distancing guidelines has proven to be a challenge.
As part of the 'Make Way For Diners' program, more than 30 restaurants in Lakeview opened up patio dining.
Broadway was filled with patrons, though not everyone was wearing a mask or staying six feet apart.
In a press conference Monday, Mayor Lightfoot reminded residents COVID-19 is still prevalent.
"I ate at a patio yesterday. One that had proper social distancing. And where we see that those rules are not being followed, we're not gonna hesitate to talk, initially, and if the talk doesn't work then start fining the restaurants, and if necessary, close them down. We all have to remember, COVID-19 hasn't magically gone away, because of the events of the last two weeks. It is absolutely very much part of our presence and whether we continue to make progress as we have over these last 10 weeks depends upon people still adhereing to the social distancing rules," she said.
Lightfoot said the only way Chicago’s outdoor dining will expand is if people continue to follow safety measures.
"I understand there's a lot of enthusiasm on the part of restaurants and patrons to get back out, to enjoy the great restaurant scene here in Chicago, but we absolutely have to do that abiding by the rules and regulations we have put in place around social distancing, wearing a mask," Lightfoot said. "In my view, it's foolish to be going out in public, particularly a social gathering like a restaurant, and not wearing a mask. So we are going to continue to preach that gospel, because it is absolutely necessary to keep people safe and it's out expectation that those restaurants will adhere to those guidelines. It makes sense for the public, it makes sense for their workers, and we are going to insist that that happens or we are not going to see other restaurants come online; and those that are consistently violating the rules are going to suffer the consequences. We've got to keep diligent and keep people safe. COVID-19 is still here. We are still seeing 200+ new infections every day. People are still dying from COVID-19.
"It is foolish to think that just because the sun is shining, the weather is warm, that magically COVID-19 has gone away. If you look at other states across the country, who didn't have the stringent stay at home rules we did, who opened up way too quickly without guidance, what we're seeing in every single one of those states is a huge surge in cases; and some of them are actually reporting the highest instance in new cases that they have had this entire year, because they did not manage the reopening correctly. We do not want that to happen in Chicago. But it's really dependent upon every person taking individual responsibility and doing this the right way. And I surely hope people will. COVID is not gone. It's still here," Lightfoot said.
She declined to say what restaurant she ate at.
The “Dine Out on Broadway” program is set to resume this weekend from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m