Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s pandemic relief program – including a revised midnight curfew on city-wide liquor sales – was set to cross city council on Wednesday to cheers from an industry restoration devastated and still recovering.
But the vote derailed – and delayed until Friday – when the council meeting descended into chaos before being adjourned.
“We are on the road to recovery. However, the road will be long and difficult. Thousands of Chicago restaurants are struggling to find viable ways to fully reopen, attract talent, pay their debits, make rents, inspire customer confidence, deal with rising costs of foods and adapt to the new normal, ”said Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association. in the public comment section that precedes each board meeting.
“The ChiBizStrong package… will immediately help small businesses reopen and recover. It includes crucial reforms that support restaurants, bars, caterers and hotel businesses. … Targeted subsidies, streamlined permits and licenses, allowing for A-signage, ensuring reasonable delivery charges and more will be of tremendous benefit to neighborhood restaurants as they welcome diners and team members.
Toia noted that many of the reforms were “successful measures adopted during the pandemic” and “we are happy that these reforms are becoming permanent.”
Lightfoot avoided what would almost certainly have been his first city council loss by rolling back the curfew – from 10 p.m. to midnight.
The extra two hours of alcohol sales were successful in appeasing city councilors concerned about the impact on businesses struggling to get back on their feet.
At a committee hearing last week, Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) was the only city councilor to voice concerns over the curfew that would force liquor stores, grocery stores and convenience stores to halt liquor sales at midnight. Sposato was concerned that businesses on the outskirts of town would lose sales to suburban businesses just across the street – but he still joined the majority in the 15: 3 vote in favor. of Lightfoot’s order.
Much of the debate has centered on the Alderman prerogative, an issue that has divided Lightfoot and the Council since the mayor used his inaugural address to declare war on long-held tradition.
The mayor’s plan calls for reducing the 150-day wait for business permits, signs and awnings to two months by ending the long-standing practice of requiring a separate ordinance for each highway permit.
Who tramples the alderman turf in a way that downtown aldermen Brian Hopkins (2sd) and Brendan Reilly (42nd) simply cannot accept.
The Mayor’s Kitchen Sink Package Also Includes:
• Require third-party delivery services to collect and remit Chicago Restaurant Tax and extend the 15% cap on delivery charges up to 180 days after all pandemic restrictions are lifted on the restaurants.
• Authorize both delivery and take out of take-out cocktails.
• Reduction of up to three weeks in the time required for new restaurants to obtain opening licenses in spaces occupied by previously closed establishments.
• Relaxation of restrictions on sandwich panels on sidewalks and revision of licenses and authorization to facilitate the opening of restaurants.
• Life extension of Chicago taxis from 7 to 10 years for standard vehicles and from 10 to 15 years for fuel efficient taxis.
• Remove barriers that have made it impossible for non-violent ex-offenders to drive public vehicles or enter the hospitality industry.
• A requirement that domestic workers in Chicago be paid at least $ 15 an hour and have written contracts outlining hours and conditions of work.
• First-ever “wage theft” ordinance to help Chicago’s most vulnerable workers recover what City Hall estimates “up to $ 400 million in wages stolen” each year by “bad faith employers” “.
• Clarify Chicago’s Minimum Wage Ordinance to ensure that chain companies don’t, as Escareno put it, “underestimate their employees in order to pay a lower minimum wage”.
• Strengthened Chicago’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance by allowing workers to take paid time off to care for family members if their school or place of care is closed. The revised order would also cover mental and behavioral health and “future public health orders”.
Escareno proudly pointed to the minimum wage for domestic workers as proof of his claim that worker protections will boost Chicago’s economy.
“Get them to a minimum wage of $ 15. Put them in the foreground. Making sure they have a contract in place when they work and making sure there are protections for them helps ensure that people trying to return to work can return to work ”, a- she declared.
The minimum wage of $ 15 would apply to anyone who employs a domestic worker, even if they clean your house only twice a month.
Escareno plans to ease this potential bureaucratic nightmare by posting a short, sweet one-page contract on his department’s website for owners to download.
City inspectors won’t knock on every door. But if the cleaning ladies complain about a boss who doesn’t pay at least $ 15 an hour, their employer will be asked to produce the contract. They also run the risk of being fined.
“We need domestic workers to feel valued and protected. They are among the most vulnerable employees, ”said Escareno.
“We want to make sure that there is a very simple contract where you say you get the minimum wage and those are the working conditions.”