Ful­ton Mar­ket Street adopts full-week clo­sures for out­door din­ing

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY DAVID STRUETT, CST WIRE RE­PORTER dstruett@sun­times.com | @dstru312

Ful­ton Mar­ket Street will re­main closed seven days a week through De­cem­ber as part of an ef­fort to ex­pand out­door din­ing to help strug­gling West Loop restau­rants.

The clo­sure, which be­gins this week­end, is be­tween Mor­gan and Car­pen­ter streets, ac­cord­ing to Susan Hofer, a spokes­woman for the Chicago Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

With in­door din­ing lim­ited to 25% ca­pac­ity un­der the city’s COVID-19 rules, out­door din­ing has be­come es­sen­tial to help restau­rants sur­vive. The city, as a re­sult, has ex­per­i­mented with street clo­sures to ex­pand out­door din­ing.

Ful­ton Mar­ket Street was pre­vi­ously closed Fri­days through Sun­days in a week­s­long out­door din­ing pi­lot pro­gram. Since the pro­gram went “smoothly,” the city de­cided to ex­pand the clo­sures to the rest of the week, with out­door din­ing tak­ing place from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. ev­ery day, said Rod Burch, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the West Cen­tral As­so­ci­a­tion.

“For the restau­rants, [out­door din­ing] is a game changer,” said Burch, adding that his group played a role in en­sur­ing the city is­sued the per­mits in a timely man­ner.

The city has also ex­per­i­mented with street clo­sures and out­door din­ing on Tay­lor Street in Lit­tle Italy and Ran­dolph Street.

Cur­rently, many restau­rants have more out­door seat­ing than in­door, Burch said.

Swift & Sons, at 1000 W. Ful­ton Mar­ket St., has al­ready ex­panded out­door seat­ing by 100, owner Phil Wal­ters said.

“We were lim­ited to 25% ca­pac­ity [in­doors], and Swift & Sons, a 400-seat restau­rant, went down to like 50 seats,” he said. “With out­door din­ing, we get 100 seats back, but we’re still be­low 50%” ca­pac­ity.”

Wal­ters com­mended the city for think­ing “out of the box” but said the fo­cus on out­door din­ing per­mits has been lim­ited to “big, splashy” neigh­bor­hoods, in­clud­ing Ful­ton Mar­ket.

“I think the city could make a more con­sis­tent ap­proach in all neigh­bor­hoods,” Wal­ters said.

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