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Five Crystal Lake businesses asking City Council for temporary outdoor seating expansions

Five Crystal Lake businesses are looking to get temporary outdoor seating expansions approved by the City Council, in anticipation for the customers they will get when the state starts gradually re-opening.

The matter will be taken up at a special meeting set for 7 p.m. Wednesday. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, this meeting will take place remotely on Zoom.

Cafe Olympic on 90 N. Williams St., Mookie’s Steak and Seafood on 446 W. Virginia St., Richard Walker’s Pancake House on 5680 Northwest Highway, The Cottage at 6 E. Crystal Lake Ave., and Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen on 110 N. Main St. are all either asking to be allowed to have outdoor seating, or expand outdoor seating they already have.

These outdoor seating expansions would only be allowed during the period of time when social distancing requirements remain in effect, and not later than Oct. 31, according to the meeting’s agenda.

Michelle Rentzsch, community development director for Crystal Lake, said the city has been working with local restaurants for a while now to prepare for Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan.

The plan, which is essentially a road map with five phases designed to gradually bring the state out of a stay-at-home order, divides Illinois into four health regions.

Currently, all four regions, including the one McHenry County is in, are on track to get to Phase 3 by May 29.

Pritzker recently announced that Phase 3 is when restaurants will be able to serve people outdoors. Bars and restaurants across the state have been closed for dine-in service since March 16.

Crystal Lake Brewing owner John O’Fallon recently petitioned the City Council to expand the brewery’s beer garden, which they approved.

“John O’Fallon was really forward-thinking about that,” Rentzsch said, adding that the five restaurants on this week’s agenda have also been “excellent” and proactive.

Rentzsch said every restaurant the city works with is unique when it comes to their outdoor seating situation.

For instance, some places have parking lots they can use, while others do not.

“That's why we're trying to make sure we work with each business so it's really customized for how it works for their employees and their customers,” she said.

Also on Wednesday’s agenda is an ordinance to allow administrative approval for outdoor seating areas. This ordinance would let businesses’ outdoor seating plans be reviewed and approved by city staff, as opposed to having to go through the City Council.

“That’ll make it much more expeditious,” Rentzsch said.

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