The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

New Outdoor Dining Rules Make Way For Curbside Cafes

By Kate Shepherd in News on Jan 15, 2016 3:21PM


If you're dreaming of sitting outside and enjoying a meal in the sun this summer, good news: Chicago regulators just made that easier to do! The catch is, you may have to eat in the road.

The City Council has approved a "two-year test that would allow restaurants next to narrow sidewalks to put tables in the parking lane closest to the curb," according to the Sun-Times.

The new curbside cafés will be allowed to operate from May to September, which is four months less than the sidewalk café season (March through November).

The restaurants with curbside cafés will need to have a sidewalk less than 8 feet wide and the eating space can be up 40 feet long, or the length of the front of the business.

But it won't be easy for businesses to legally put their tables in parking lanes. According to TimeOut, there's a catch: permits start at $600, and restaurants will also have to pay back any lost parking meter revenue to the parking meter company. And it gets worse:

After restaurants are licensed and agree to pay fees, they'd also have to block off the seating area from traffic and make the area's "floor" even with the sidewalk to prevent patrons from stumbling. Oh, then they have to store this makeshift patio somewhere over the winter months.

The measure was proposed by Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th). Tunney says he would like to see curbside cafés on Clark Street.

"We're really trying to be innovative," he told the Sun-Times. "We're also trying to assist our small businesses and be a little creative with this. It could be an opportunity for you and your licensees in your wards to have another opportunity to enliven the street traffic, help the retail merchant and give them another opportunity to expand their sales."