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Chicago Brewpubs Prepare to Reopen on Wednesday

Chicago Brewpubs Prepare to Reopen on Wednesday
Mike Zoller

While many Illinois breweries were able to reopen with outdoor seating on May 29, Chicago-based breweries have had to wait a bit longer. However, this Wednesday, the city’s beer scene will finally begin breathing new life as brewpubs have been granted permission to reopen June 3.

In the city, things will operate under different guidelines than the rest of the state. As of right now, if a brewery location doesn’t serve food, they will not be able to reopen, even with outdoor seating. That will drastically limit which breweries in the city can reopen starting Wednesday.

We spoke with some of Chicago’s brewpubs to find out more on their plans to reopen.

Open Outcry

Open Outcry owner John Brand said he plans to be reopened around June 3. However, it might not be on Wednesday, as they have a lot to get ready before welcoming back customers.

“When the Mayor said that Chicago wouldn’t open with the rest of the state, we had to make a good guess on when we might open,” Brand said. “We were targeting the second Friday in June and that’s when we set-up a lot of our deliveries.”

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But Brand and his team have been preparing ever since the Governor made note that moving into Phase 3 would happen soon.

“We had put together a reopening plan about a week and a half ago after the Governor accelerated Phase 3 and allowed a lot of the state to open up,” Brand said. “We sat down and put together a list of all the steps we had to do to reopen.”


DryHop & Corridor

Sister brewpubs DryHop and Corridor have confirmed they will open June 3 with outdoor dining. There will be 20 seats available at Corridor while DryHop will have around 40-50 seats as they’ll be using some of Roebuck’s patio as well.

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The full menus won’t be available at either location according to marketing director Jesse Valenciana. They will have “key and popular” items for the time being.

The owners have said that safety is still the highest priority and some have said that if they aren’t ready on Wednesday they will delay opening until everything is set.


Kaiser Tiger

Pat Berger, owner of Kaiser Tiger, is hoping to open Wednesday but said that could be pushed back if needed.

“Wednesday is the plan if we can get all of the safety procedures in place and the staff trained in time,” Berger said. “If we don’t feel comfortable we will delay it but hopefully we’re good to go on Wednesday.”

Berger said that all of his staff will be tested for COVID-19 before they are allowed to begin working again. Kaiser Tiger will be reservation-only when they do reopen and like many other places will only accept credit cards with mobile scanners that will be sanitized after each use.

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To make it as safe as possible for the staff, Open Outcry is setting up their servers in shifts very similar to hockey lines. The same squad will work all the same hours so that if one person ends up getting sick, they can simply pull that shift from the rotation instead of having to completely shut down because of the potential risk to all the other servers.

That is also part of the delay for Open Outcry as with such a short turnaround time, they’ve wanted to make sure they can set-up those shifts and everyone can work the same hours.

“It’s been a challenge to get a commitment from everyone to come back in a short amount of time so we can set-up those teams.”

Once they are ready to reopen, it will be a limit of 50 people on the rooftop and a reservation-only system. Never having to do reservations before, Brand wants to make sure that he and his staff are properly trained on all the new software and procedures so that it’s a smooth transition.

“I like the tasks and welcome these challenges,” Brand said. “We’ll figure it out and fight through it. We’ll open up in a way that’s the best to get our food and beer to people on-premise in a safe way and try to do it in a profitable way.”

DryHop and Corridor, which didn’t take reservations before being shut down, will have a first-come-first-serve waiting list.

The city is also giving businesses that might not have outdoor seating an opportunity to reopen as well. A new regulation will allow restaurants with large garage doors or big open windows to allow people inside to dine.

“…dining areas considered outdoors include rooftops, rooms with retractable roofs and indoor spaces where 50 percent or more of a wall can be removed via the opening of windows, doors or panels provided that dining tables are within 8 feet from such openings.”


Forbidden Root

Forbidden Root is expecting to reopen June 5 with tables at the front of the brewpub where the windows can be opened according to the city’s guidelines.


District BrewYards

**Updated as of 12:30pm on June 1st – BrewYards will not reopen for outdoor seating on Wednesday. They will still be open for to-go sales for both beer and BBQ.**

District BrewYards, home to four breweries and now Lillie’s Q BBQ, was also expected to be opening this week. However, following the riots in the city, they may put those plans on hold.

“After watching the protests and mayhem the last two nights, we may not open as planned this week,” BrewYards founder Steve Soble said. “We are going to take a wait and see approach. I’m very concerned about safety at this point.”

If BrewYards does open it will be with all four of the breweries and the seating will take place in the parking lot that they’d be using courtesy of another business that isn’t currently open.

“The parking lot belongs to Altitude Trampoline Park but they are not using it during the shutdown,” Soble said. “Kevin, the owner of Altitude, graciously offered to let us have tables on the lot while he is closed.”

They would plan to have about seating for 60 if they open. Even if they don’t open for outdoor seating, they will still have to-go sales for both food and beer.


Middlebrow

One brewery to confirm they would not be opening, even though they have ample outdoor patio space, is Middlebrow.

“While I think that some breweries can open safely, and I think we’re one of the lucky ones given our massive outdoor space, next Wednesday is a bit too soon for us,” owner Pete Ternes said. “We’re enjoying our role as shopkeepers. We’ve been selling massive amounts of packaged beer, house-made sourdough, wine, house-made groceries and, most of all, farmers’ produce. Whatever we do, we want to make sure we can still support local farmers and provide safe four-packs and fresh bread to our neighbors. When we find a way to do both that and open our patio, we will and we’ll be so damn excited.”

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Other brewpubs expected to open on or shortly after June 3 include Haymarket and Cruz Blanca, both located in the West Loop.


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