CHAMPAIGN — Rain, wind and temperatures in the 90s don’t necessarily make for ideal outdoor dining, but indoor service at restaurants and bars will be making a comeback Friday.
“A lot of our regular customers have commented that they can’t wait to sit in the air conditioning,” said Elizabeth Buscombe-Capili, a manager at Le Peep restaurant in Champaign.
Under Phase 4 of Illinois’ five-phase reopening plan, indoor service at bars and restaurants will be permitted starting Friday with restrictions to allow for safe distancing between customers and otherwise help reduce the chances for spreading COVID-19.
Being permitted to restart indoor service Friday doesn’t mean all restaurants and bars will do so, and not necessarily at the full capacity they’ll be allowed.
As of Wednesday, Philo Tavern was still in the process of deciding how to proceed, according to Jeff Drook, one of the owners.
“We’re kind of still a little nervous about coronavirus going on, and we’re not sure,” he said.
Open for carryout and outdoor service at the moment, Philo Tavern will likely have some level of indoor service, Drook said, but it may be at only 25 percent capacity or in some other way with more precautions than the state will require.
Outdoor and carryout business has been good, he said, and as long as the weather is favorable, he believes a lot of customers will want to remain at outdoor tables.
“We just want everybody to be safe,” Drook said.
Many restaurants will be continuing the outdoor dining and curbside pickup they began in earlier reopening phases, along with opening up for indoor service. And they’ve been in the process of making adjustments to accommodate state restrictions.
Le Peep, among the many planning to reopen for indoor seating Friday, has removed some tables, brought in some extra staff to make sure all requirements are being met and will continue serving on a first-come, first-served basis, Buscombe-Capili said.
Champaign’s Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano is leaving its indoor tables in place but will accommodate the distances being required by making some indoor tables unavailable, said Shaji Floodman, one of the managers.
Biaggi’s hasn’t been offering outdoor dining, though its curbside carryout has continued.
One change, along with meeting all the reopening requirements, is that Biaggi’s will be closing a bit earlier, with hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Floodman said.
Manzella’s Italian Patio will begin offering indoor seating July 2, owner John Manzella said.
Starting indoor service will coincide with a reopening after a vacation that was prearranged months ago, he said.
Pedro Heller, owner of Black Dog Smoke & Ale House and an owner at Esquire Lounge, said Black Dog will have every other table indoors open and keep most of the outdoor seating in place now.
Outdoor business has been spotty, subject to the weather, he said.
Plans were still being made for reopening indoor service at Esquire, Heller said, but he believes that downtown Champaign restaurant/bar will also likely reopen indoors with seating at every other table, subject to lining up the employees.
Plans are to install partitions between the booths at both businesses, which will allow for all those tables to be used, he said.
Champaign’s Sun Singer Restaurant, Wine & Spirits will reopen indoor dining Friday with seating for about 70 people inside, co-owner Michelle Yarbrough said.
Combined with seating for about 80 outdoors, she said, that will give Sun Singer about the same capacity it had pre-pandemic.
Sun Singer has been permitted by its landlord to spread its outdoor seating across the fronts of several businesses, Yarbrough said. That’s worked out well for both the restaurant and other businesses that got increased exposure from Sun Singer customers, she said.
Sun Singer closed March 17, ahead of the state lockdown and gave away about $6,000 in perishable food to its employees and the Champaign Fire Department, Yarbrough said. It reopened in late April for curbside pickup and in late May for outdoor seating, and based on customer response, “we’re very encouraged,” she said.