Business curfew derails reopening plans for Rex Tavern in Jefferson Park
by BRIAN NADIG
Rex Tavern in Jefferson Park has been essentially closed for seven months due to restrictions imposed on bars during the pandemic, but its owner was planning to reopen on Monday, Oct. 26 — those plans are now canceled due to a new set of restrictions imposed by the city today following a recent increase in COVID-19 cases and a rising positivity rate.
Rex Tavern owner Gregg Weinstein said Thursday afternoon that he understands and appreciates the reasons for the restrictions — “I’m not opposed to what they’re saying. … I get it.”
That’s the reality of trying to save lives during the pandemic, he said, but the other reality is its effect on his businesses, which include other bars he owns in the city, and that effect is devastating. “It’s been killing us,” he said.
Except for a handful of hours in which Rex Tavern, located at 4933 N. Milwaukee Ave., was open for carryout sales on select weekends around June, the bar has been shut down since the city and state went into lockdown in mid-March.
Weinstein said that he has spent countless hours and dollars cleaning and updating the bar during the past several months and that he had just sent out next week’s work schedule to his staff when 90 minutes later Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the latest restrictions, which require taverns to be open only for outdoor service and that is only permitted if they also have a food license. Rex Tavern does not have a food license or an outdoor patio.
“I’ve been putting everything into that place, touchless faucets … new dishwasher … hand sanitizers … now it’s just going to sit there,” Weinstein said. He added that he was implementing new capacity restrictions which would have greatly limited the number of patrons inside the bar, estimating that no more than 15 to 20 people would be inside at one time.
Starting at 6 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23, a business curfew will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for all non-essential businesses in Chicago, and bars without a retail food license will no longer be able to serve customers indoors. Under the city’s order, all Chicagoans are being asked to avoid social gatherings of more than six people and end all social gatherings by 10 p.m.
These restrictions and guidelines will be in effect for at least two weeks and are targeted to help Chicago manage an alarming recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, according to city officials.
All liquor establishments that are allowed to serve alcohol for on-site consumption must end alcohol service at 9 p.m. before closing at 10 p.m. under the business curfew. All other existing restrictions remain in place, including indoor capacity limits of 40 percent or 50 people within a room or space.