By Dermot Connolly
Restaurants in Illinois will be allowed to offer outdoor dining as soon as this weekend, and many local officials are making it as easy as possible for eateries without tables outside already to add that service.
And on Tuesday morning, at a meeting held for the first time since March in Village Hall following strict social distancing protocols, the Oak Lawn Village Board agreed to waive fees and make the permitting process as smooth as possible for businesses that want outdoor dining.
Restaurants such as the Barrel Club in Oak Lawn were already taking reservations for patio dining beginning tomorrow, May 29, and other places such as Reilly’s Daughter and Clancy’s in Oak Lawn, and The Red Palm and others in Evergreen Park with existing outdoor seating are ready to go. Even One Allegiance Brewing, a craft brewery at 10215 S Harlem Ave., in Chicago Ridge, will have beer gardens open with food trucks.
But other restaurants that don’t typically have outdoor service want it now, because indoor service will not be allowed until Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan.
“ We have had dozens of reach-outs from restaurants wanting this,” said Mayor Sandra Bury. “But Oak Lawn’s business is very traditional, especially along 95 th Street without much room in front for outdoor tables."
Therefore, she and the board discussed making it as easy as possible for restaurants to put up seating and tents in rear or side parking lots, and possibly close off alleys for safety if that is needed.
When Oak Lawn resident Sandra Wayteck stopped in to Les Brothers, 8705 S. Ridgeland Ave., to pick up an order Tuesday, she was surprised and happy to find out that a tent will be set up there to offer outdoor seating in the parking lot.
“ I would definitely go for the outdoor seating. I thought it would be only at places like Krapil’s in Worth, which already has a patio. I hope it is not too expensive to set up, because it might just be for a few weeks.”
“ Restaurants and bars have been forced to close. Their profit margins are tight as it is. Anything we can do to help them would be great,” said Oak Lawn Trustee Bud Stalker (5 th ).
“ It would be hard to argue that restaurants and bars are not the lifeblood of our community. That is where people go to meet. We need our restaurants and bars to thrive,” said Trustee Tom Phelan (6th).
“ They’re just looking for the opportunity to offer that outdoor experience,” said Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2 nd ),” who said the restaurateurs he has spoken to are aware of all the health and safety regulations they will have to follow.
Oak Lawn officials expect to be very busy in the coming days, handling permit requests for outdoor dining. Trustee Tim Desmond (1 st ) suggested offering a simplified permit that applicants can fill out online. But Don McKenna, the planning and zoning administrator, said applicants must still provide a layout of their plans to ensure the seating is not encroaching on the property line, for instance, or too close to neighboring residences.
On the advice of village attorney Paul O’Grady, the board agreed to hold a special meeting before June 1 to settle issues such as closing times for outdoor seating.
Les Brothers also plans to open the patios at its Hickory Hills locations when Phase 3 kicks in on Friday.
“We plan to offer outdoor seating as soon as possible,” Georgia Les, manager of Les Brothers restaurant in Oak Lawn, said Tuesday.
Les Brothers at 7730 W. 95 th St. in Hickory Hills and Prime Time across the street at 7750 W. 95 th St. both have patios, Les said.
“We’re also putting tents in front of all three locations,” she said. “We hope to have seating for about 20 in each of the tents.”
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 Time.
Last week, the Orland Park Village Board agreed to allow all qualified businesses restaurants that want them to get 90-day permits, at no cost, for outdoor dining and alcohol service.
“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.”
Contributing to this report was Bob Bong.