Lightfoot introduces package of relief efforts


CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot is introducing a bevy of proposals geared toward helping Chicago restaurants and other businesses as they seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as new protections for consumers and workers.

The mayor also is proposing a permanent 10 p.m. cutoff for alcohol sales at liquor stores, grocery stores, and convenience stores. Those businesses faced a 9 p.m. cutoff during the pandemic until Lightfoot moved back that curfew to 11 p.m. last fall. Previously, stores with packaged goods licenses had been allowed to sell most types of alcohol until 2 or 3 a.m.

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Lightfoot’s proposed change says “No person holding a package goods shall sell, permit to be sold, or give away any package goods between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. on Mondays through Sundays, except that a supermarket may commence the sale of package goods al 8:00 a.m. on Sundays.”

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) used a parliamentary maneuver to shuttle that proposal, along with much of the mayor’s business relief measures, to the City Council Rules Committee, which would essentially push back potential approval of the ordinances by a month, so the Rules Committee could assign the package to the proper committee for a debate and vote.

The package of ordinances the mayor dubbed the Chi Biz Strong Initiative includes proposals for cutting down on red tape for various permits and licenses, a 15% cap on third-party delivery fees charged by services like GrubHub, $10 million in grants for businesses hurt by the pandemic, and allowing shops to advertise on sidewalks using A-frame signs.

The mayor’s proposal also would set up a payment plan for businesses that have city debt to make it easier for them to renew their licenses.

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“In order to recover from this pandemic quickly and holistically, we must take bold action and reimagine how we do business here in Chicago,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “Over the last fourteen months, we have learned so much—including that the way we typically do business does not work for all entrepreneurs and workers. Now is our opportunity to address the structural inequities that have held us back for so long and create a post-pandemic world that fully supports small businesses across the city, protects workers, and above all, roots equity and inclusion within our city’s economy. Thanks to this package, we will be able to do just that and set our residents, communities, and businesses up for long-term success.”

The mayor will introduce her proposals to the City Council on Wednesday.

The plan also would expedite licenses for restaurants that open in vacant spaces once occupied by shuttered restaurants.

Cocktails to go also would become permanently legal for restaurants and bars. However, the mayor is also proposing a permanent 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales at liquor stores, grocery stores, and convenience stores.

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According to the mayor’s office, the package includes:

  • Licensee Relief Program: Over $10 million in targeted grants for businesses hurt by the pandemic.
  • Cap on Third-Party Delivery Fees: A 15% cap on fees that third-party delivery companies can charge restaurants will be extended until after 180 days after all COVID restrictions have been lifted.
  • Debt Relief Program: Businesses with city debt will be able to enter into a discounted payment plan in order to renew their licenses and continue operating.
  • Expedited Restaurant Licensing: New restaurants in previously closed restaurant spaces will benefit from an expedited license issuance process, helping fill empty restaurant spaces and enabling new restaurants to open 2-3 weeks sooner.
  • Legalization of Sidewalk Signs: Retail businesses will be able to use A-Frame signs and advertise their business from the sidewalk.
  • Expedited Permit Process: Shaving up to two months off the 150-day wait for businesses to get permits for signs, awnings, and other critical business infrastructure.
  • Taxicab Reforms: Allowing standard taxicabs to stay on the roads for 10 years, up from the current 7-year limit; and fuel-efficient taxis to stay on the roads for 15 years, up from 10, in an effort to expand the pool of eligible taxicabs by 20% and save the industry up to $20 million in costs in 2021 alone.
  • Expanded Workforce Opportunities: Lowering barriers for non-violent ex-offenders to work in the public vehicle and hospitality industries.
  • Consumer Protection: The mayor’s office says it will seek to address public safety and nuisance issues by setting a permanent 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales at liquor stores, grocery stores, and convenience stores, and prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco.
  • Wage Theft Protections: An ordinance to protect against wage theft, and help workers recover an estimated $400 million in wages are stolen “by bad-faith employers every year.”
  • Chain Business Worker Support: Ensure a fair minimum wage for chain business workers by preventing employers within a single unitary business group from undercounting their employees.
  • Domestic Worker Support: Requiring anyone who hires “domestic workers” to enter a written contract to pay them at least $15 an hour.
  • Paid Sick Leave Enhancements: Overhauling the city’s paid sick leave ordinance, to include “caring for a family member with a closed place of care, classroom, or school.”

CBS 2 Chicago Staff