Chicago is loosening many of its COVID-19 restrictions under the new Open Chicago initiative announced Thursday by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, which aims to increase capacity at indoor events and expand festivals and other outdoor entertainment.  

The plan will focus on safely reopening public amenities and private venues, expanding outdoor dining, activating public spaces with opportunities for arts, culture and recreation and allow businesses to return to office space.

“Despite the unimaginable challenges that were thrown our way last year, we were still able to persist and come together to slow and stop the spread of this virus and put our city on the right path toward a safe reopening," said Mayor Lightfoot. "Open Chicago is not only the direct result of these efforts, but it also serves as the latest step in our mission to fully restore a sense of normalcy within our city by bringing back and reimagining some of our favorite summer- and fall-time activities."

Because the city has made significant strides in reversing the spike in COVID-19 metrics that began in March, the newly loosened Phase Four regulations will allow the majority of industries in Chicago to increase their capacity. 

The following increases will go into effect immediately: 50 percent capacity or 100 people -- whichever figure is lesser -- at restaurants and bars; 25 percent capacity for spectator events at large indoor event venues; the lesser of 25 percent capacity or 250 people at meetings, conventions and conferences at large indoor venues; 25 percent capacity for places of worship; 15 people per 1,000 square feet at festivals and outdoor spectator events; and the lesser of 25 percent capacity or 15 people per 1,000 square feet at flea markets and farmers markets.

Among the events slated to return as part of the reopening are the Night Out in the Parks program, which will feature outdoor performances from more than 100 Chicago artists and organizations and the "Switch on Summer" event at Buckingham Fountain. Maggie Daley Park's miniature golf course and ribbon will also open daily beginning April 30, with daily rentals available starting May 28. 

To support bars and restaurants, the city is creating a $2 million program that will provide grants for expanded outdoor dining to businesses from low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. 

Additionally, the Windy City Smokeout, which will be hosted in the United Center parking lot, will be the first Chicago street festival to make a comeback this summer.

Starting July 11, a new Chicago Loop Alliance program, Sundays on State, will close State Street from Madison to Lake for 12 Sundays, allowing visitors to enjoy opportunities for arts and culture, retail, recreation and food and beverages. 

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