As Evanston and Illinois move towards Phase 3 of Governor Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, the City is taking action to better accommodate and expand safe outdoor dining options for local establishments. 

Phase 3 of the Governor’s plan, which Evanston and Illinois are expected to reach on May 29, was recently updated to permit outdoor dining with strict health and safety guidelines in place, including limiting parties to six individuals or fewer, requiring employees to wear face coverings, and arranging seating to provide a six-foot minimum distance between tables. (The City’s Health and Human Services Department is requiring a six-foot minimum distance from the back of occupied chairs.)

On May 26, the Evanston City Council approved a resolution waiving sidewalk cafe permit fees for 2020 and allowing temporary outdoor seating permits to be issued in accordance with public health guidelines. City staff are also exploring options to create more space for restaurants to offer or expand outdoor seating areas, such as in parking spaces or parking lots, during specified hours.

To help businesses better understand Phase 3 public health guidelines and the process to establish safe outdoor dining, the City put together the following frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

·         Where are outdoor dining services permitted under Phase 3?

Per State guidelines, dining is permitted in outdoor spaces and indoors 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 eight feet from such opening. 

·         Can I begin serving customers outdoors in my establishment’s private patio, rooftop or open-window space on May 29?

Private patio and rooftop owners, as well as those with open window seating, can operate dining services in these spaces beginning May 29 (or the first day of Phase 3), in accordance with public health guidelines.

·         Can I serve customers at my permitted sidewalk cafe on May 29?

Restaurants with an approved sidewalk cafe that conforms with IDPH and City guidelines can begin operating these spaces on May 29. All spaces will be subject to inspection from the City’s Health and Human Services Department, and permits will be revoked if spaces do not meet current public health guidelines.

·         I don’t have a sidewalk cafe. How can I get a permit?

Sidewalk cafe permits can be submitted online. Applications will be reviewed by members of the City’s Design and Project Review (DAPR) Committee on a first-come, first-served basis. Questions can be directed to Building & Inspection Services Division Manager Gary Gerdes at

Plans must meet State and City public health guidelines. A six-foot public right-of-way must also be maintained to accommodate pedestrians and meet ADA guidelines. Applicants must also meet other requirements of outdoor seating, such as insurance requirements and indemnification. 

It is anticipated that approvals will occur beginning as early as June 2. Sidewalk cafe permit fees have been waived for 2020.

·         How can I submit a request for an outdoor dining area on public property (parking space, street, etc.)?

Restaurants that are unable to comply with IDPH Phase 3 guidelines for sidewalk cafes due to space constraints will be able to propose an alternative location for an outdoor cafe, including on-street parking spaces, periodic street closures, off-street parking lots (including City-owned), and other public rights-of-way. This option will require additional staff review to ensure traffic and health safety standards. Business owners should submit a dimensioned site plan depicting chair and table placement and a short narrative describing planned public right-of-way usage to Building & Inspection Services Division Manager Gary Gerdes at

·         I already paid for a sidewalk cafe permit. Will I get reimbursed?

Yes. The City will be issuing refunds for sidewalk cafe permit fees that were paid for 2020.

·         How much distance must be between tables?

The City’s Health and Human Services Department is requiring at least six feet between the backs of occupied chairs. Plans that show a six-foot distance between table edges, rather than seat backs, will be denied.

·         How can I provide my input?

Restaurant owners are encouraged to provide their feedback  to help the City meet their needs by completing the City’s outdoor dining survey.