Diners enjoy the great outdoors
By Bob Bong
Violence sparked by protests and demonstrations in Chicago and some
southwest and southern suburbs put a damper on what should have been a banner
weekend for restaurants that had been suffering for months under restrictions
aimed at combatting the spread of COVID-19.
Under state guidelines, restaurant servers will wear masks and gloves and
tables will be six-feet apart. Employees will have their temperatures taken at
the start of their shifts. Restaurants will be allowed about half of their
normal guest count.
Restaurants that had patios or makeshift outdoor seating areas were
pleasantly surprised by the number of people who showed up on Friday, the first
day they could resume serving dine-in customers as long as they were outdoors.
Diane Roderick, owner of Buck’s Pit Stop in Hodgkins, said she was “busier
than expected” last Friday after opening a patio of sorts in what had been part
of the restaurant’s parking lot.
“We took out part of the south parking lot to add a patio,” she said before
opening the doors at 6501 Kane Ave. in Hodgkins for the first time since
mid-March. Like a lot of restaurants, Buck’s had been offering curbside pickup
during the shutdown.
“My girls are anxious to get back to work,” said Roderick. “They are
anxious to see everybody.”
Buck’s, like other restaurants, also took advantage of the shutdown to do
some work inside the building after 22 years.
“We did some painting,” she said. “Some rearranging. Some major work as
well as minor upgrades. The stuff we couldn’t do when the restaurant was
operating normally. It will be worth it.”
There are some changes.
“We will be closed on Mondays,” she said. “The patio will be open from 11
a.m. to 9 p.m. This is a neighborhood. We try to be respectful for our
Almost all of her staff came back for the reopening.
“One of my girls didn’t come back. She decided to go to college. I’m so
happy for her.”
Roderick was also thankful.
“I’d like to thank everybody who supported us through the curbside
ordering,” she said.
Les Brothers opened the patios at its two Hickory Hills locations and
added tents in front of all three of its locations when Phase 3 kicked in on
“We put tents in front of all three locations,” said Georgia Les, manager
of Les Brothers restaurant at 8705 S. Ridgeland Ave. in Oak Lawn.
Les Brothers at 7730 W. 95thSt.
in Hickory Hills and Prime Time across the street at 7750 W. 95thSt. both have patios,
“We hope to have seating for about 20 in each of the tents,” she said.
Hours will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Oak Lawn Les Brothers location, 6
a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hickory Hills location, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Prime
Gertrude and Jerry Mnlacek, of Burbank, stopped at the Oak Lawn location
Friday to enjoy their first meal outside in two months.
“I prayed for this. We are just so happy to be here,” said
Gertrude. “I wear a mask when I have to,” she said, indicating the
one around her neck. “But I am healthy and am not concerned about being
At least half of the 24 tables were filled about noon on Friday.
In Palos Heights, Gino Maira from Mama Vesuvio’s, 6361 W. College Drive,
was looking forward to the reopening.
“We have a rather large patio area with some covered areas that normally
seats about 200. We can cut that back to 100 or 75.”
The bocce ball courts will also be open.
“We will follow all of the guidelines as well as use some common sense,”
“We want the chance to conduct business the same way we have for the past
40 years,” he said.
Maira said the restaurant is taking reservations, but will accommodate
One concession he said he was making to the pandemic was entertainment.
“We are cancelling all entertainment this summer,” he said. “We will bring
it back in the fall.”
Other restaurants that began offering outdoor dining on Friday were Capri
Ristorante, 12307 S. Harlem Ave. in Palos Heights, which had a tent cover for
its backyard patio as well as some sidewalk seating in the front; JC’s Pub
& Grill, 8650 Joliet Road in McCook, which opened two patios for lunch and
dinner; Zachary’s Grill at 13415 S. Ridgeland Ave. in Palos Heights.
Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant
Association, said that outdoor seating would not be a solution for every
restaurant, but it will be “a benefit to many at a time when every dollar
Toia said that more than half of Illinois
restaurants have closed during the stay-at-home order, plummeting sales by 70
to 80 percent and putting 321,000 employees out of work. He called Pritzker’s
announcement a “step in the right direction” that gives restaurants a chance to
“Let’s close down streets. Let’s expand
sidewalk cafes. Let’s use parking lots and public ways,” he said. “Let’s show
the world how innovative Illinois can be.”
Orland Park took that message to heart and
agreed to allow restaurants that don’t have patios to temporarily use parking
lot space for outdoor seating.
“We are doing all we can to come up with ways to in which the village can
assist businesses in their recovery,” said Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau. “Once
restaurants are allowed to reopen, they will now have options for increasing
seating without violating social distancing guidelines.”
“Outdoor seating and dining will allow businesses to expand the number of
patrons served,” said Pekau. “With more customers, comes the need for more
servers, more tables served means more bussers needed, more diners needing to
be seated, more hosts and the list just grows.”
Restaurants are not expected to open for
indoor dining until Phase 4.
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