City of Rockford announces plan for outdoor restaurant, bar seating

By Jim Hagerty
Reporter

ROCKFORD – The City of  Rockford, onThursday, announced that it is modifying current practices to facilitate more outdoor seating for restaurants and bars as the city moves into Phase 3 of the governor’s coronavirus Restore Illinois plan.

To accommodate saloons and eateries to open by May 29, the city has tasked the Public Works and Community and Economic Development departments to expedited approvals of outdoor seating. Permit fees will be waived for seating areas on public and private property. That means temporary seating will be permitted in parking lots, sidewalks, and alleys, as long as it complies with safety standards.

For liquor license holders not approved for outdoor consumption, the approval process for that provision will be suspended.

The plan comes a day after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that bars and restaurants could reopen in Phase 3 instead of Phase 4.

Under the new Phase 3 rules, tables must be six feet apart and servers must wear masks. Those who are not seated must practice social distancing.

Mayor Tom McNamara said although some law enforcement agencies have vowed not to enforce the governor’s stay-at-home directives and certain municipalities are giving everyone the green light, Rockford won’t be one them.

“We are not going to go against the governor’s order but what I can say is we are going to be as business friendly as we possibly can be with that outdoor seating,” he said.

City officials already had a plan to open bars and restaurants June 1 with restrictions and were prepared to submit it to the state for approval. Wednesday’s announcement put that move on hold. And whether it gets put back into play depends on the governor and how things pan out in Springfield as lawmakers wrap up their spring session.

“If the governor chooses not to extend his order or the state legislature chooses not to enact any new laws on us, yes, we would go ahead with our June 1 plan.”

Pritzker has not announced whether he will extend the current stay-at-home order, although it is a likely move if he plans to hold citizens to the Restore Illinois plan. If he does extend the measure, it likely won’t be more restrictive. Lawmakers are not aiming at anything more prohibitive either.

If a bill drafted in part by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce passes, all of Illinois could open June 1.

“I think (the governor) will extend the stay-at-home order and add language, which pretty much codifies his Phase 3 plan,” McNamara said, referring to a conversation with Pritzker’s office earlier this week. “That’s the way I took it.”

More information about outdoor restaurant and bar seating can be obtained by emailing businessfirst@rockfordil.gov.

 

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