Chicago festivals return, restrictions lifted as Covid-19 cases decline and vaccinations increase


FILE-The crowd endures the rain during Lollapalooza 2014. (Courtney Jacquin / The DePaulia)

According to Chicago’s Phase Four guidelines, the city loosened its Covid-19 regulations, effective immediately, permitting events like festivals, reopening the United Center and more. The city’s new reopening measures are underway as coronavirus cases have decreased and the amount of fully vaccinated residents increased to around 30 percent, according to Block Club Chicago.

Chicago will increase capacity limits on events such as festivals with some restrictions. People are still expected to social distance and wear face coverings among other measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

Lifted restrictions will allow restaurants to increase their capacity to 50 percent or 100 people. Large indoor venues like the United Center, theatres and concert halls can now operate at 25 percent capacity. Smaller indoor venues can operate at 50 percent capacity or 50 people.

Outdoor events like festivals can operate with 15 people per 1,000 square feet. Outdoor social events can also be held at 50 percent capacity or 100 people. Fully vaccinated individuals — those who wait 14 days after their second vaccination dose — will not count towards the capacity limits. 

These lifted restrictions will apply to private events for the time being, but the city may expand its rules in the coming weeks. Such events must be held by licensed businesses and guests must RSVP ahead of time. Businesses will also have to verify guests who are fully vaccinated and keep records for the city. 

If the city sees stable or declining cases in the next two weeks, Chicago will enter its bridge phase and other regulations will also loosen up to expand hours for restaurants and bars. Other lifted restrictions include increasing capacity among different industries. The bridge phase precedes Phase Five — the final step where Illinois returns to normal with no capacity limits. 

The first street festival scheduled to return is the Windy City Smokeout, an annual barbeque event in July that is expected to host 12,500 people per day. Vendors, performers and staff participating must be fully vaccinated and attendees will have to prove they are fully vaccinated as well. Non-vaccinated individuals will be permitted, but they must provide proof that they tested negative for Covid-19 72 hours prior to the event. 

Beginning July 11, the city and Chicago Loop Alliance will block traffic downtown for up to 12 Sundays to encourage people to walk freely and explore shops, restaurants and other establishments. 

As Chicago reopens, more lakeside activities will resume with restrictions as well. Soldier Field will also reopen and will resume in person events at the stadium. 

Under a $2 million program, the city will provide grants to businesses in low to moderate income neighborhoods to help expand outdoor dining. Chicago will also receive $4 million to support its shared streets program, an initiative designed to give neighborhoods space to enjoy socially distant outdoor activities. The funding will help convert excess pavement into community spaces including outdoor seating and community group programs. 

Other events to resume include the Buckingham Fountain contest, where the fountain will be turned on once again. The Maggie Daley Park golf course will reopen along with its skating ribbon this May. Park activities like movie nights will also return this summer, with screenings planned for over 100 parks. 

Residents 16 and older are now eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccines across the state. As more individuals become vaccinated and cases decline, the city will continue to lift restrictions in an attempt to resume pre-pandemic life.