Eater Chicago | Naomi Waxman | June 3, 2020

Masked servers, beer in plastic cups, and plenty of sanitizer

Lakeview gastropub Corridor Brewery & Provisions was among the restaurants reopening for outdoor dining on Wednesday for the first time since mid-March. These restaurants and must abide by a litany of city requirements: tables must be six feet apart, parties cannot be larger than six per table, and customers must wear face coverings when they’re not eating or drinking. Self-serve drink stations are verboten, and waiting rooms are allowed to hold a maximum of 10 people.

The Southport Corridor restaurant stands across from a boarded-up Amazon Books location with its large front doors completely open, creating a wide channel between the indoor dining space and outdoor patio. Would-be diners and curious passersby linger in the in-between space looking around for direction from remarkably upbeat staff, who promptly pull them aside and lay out how it works.

  • Masked customers are seated and provided disposable paper menus that outline food and beverage offerings
  • They place orders at the sidewalk-facing bar inside the dining room and pay for their meal
  • Diners then return to their designated outdoor table
  • Servers deliver the order
  • After customers depart, staff sanitize their table and chairs

Corridor has 12 patio seats across five socially-distanced tables (two and four-tops), plus eight more spots at two four-tops arranged just on the edge of the indoor dining space and sidewalk. That’s a drop from its original 90 seats.

A manager estimated that the restaurant had served around seven or eight tables by 12:30 p.m., and staff turned and served four more parties of two in the next half hour. Diners are provided with typical silverware and dishes, and beer is served in clear plastic cups. Interactions with servers are limited — staff transport food from kitchen to table rapidly and don’t hang around to chat.

All workers are masked, per the city’s mandate, but customers are allowed to remove their face covering once they’re seated. An amiable Corridor employee explained that he’d had to turn away a few people who showed up without a face covering, but said most have come prepared. When asked what he’d like diners to know, he requested patience and understanding, especially given the novelty of the scenario both workers and diners find themselves in.

The path to any kind of restaurant reopening has been fraught, down to the final moments before relaunch — ominous weather forecasts, concerns over potential looting and vandalism, and the taxing effects of days of protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd lead some companies like Boka Restaurant Group and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises to hold off on their reopening plans until Thursday or Friday.

Neither patrons nor restaurants should expect a return to so-called normalcy any time soon — rather, all will likely need to be prepared for some trial and error as operators wade into as-yet uncharted waters.