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20-May-24 – A plan to only partially close a three-block stretch of Clark Street in River North for outdoor dining is giving 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly a sour stomach.

Reilly says after several weeks of negotiating with Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office and two city departments, he thought they had a compromise over the Clark Street Outdoor Dining Program. The curb lane of Clark Street, from Kinzie Street to Grand Avenue, would be closed to vehicles from May to July, then transitioned to a full closure, from mid-July to October 1, at the conclusion of the NASCAR Chicago Street Race.

However, on May 15, Johnson announced that no more than the curb lane from Grand to Kinzie would be closed for outdoor dining until October 31.

During his negotiations, Reilly says he “pressed the Johnson Administration for the total closure of the street to vehicular traffic, to once again transform Clark Street into a pedestrian-friendly space for all to enjoy.”

He says it was the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection and the Chicago Department of Transportation that proposed the compromise.


“That was not my preference, but I was willing to accept that as a fair compromise,” said Reilly (left) in his newsletter to constituents on May 17.

Reilly says his survey of 3,000 registered voters in River North showed 87 percent in favor of fully closing Clark Street, and only 12 percent opposed.

The mayor’s office says allowing curb lane closures, without fully closing Clark Street to vehicle traffic, “balances the needs of residents, businesses, workers, visitors, and the local community.”

“The format will give participating restaurants extra capacity and create an inviting outdoor space for dining, while taking into account the need for accessibility and traffic flow in the River North community,” said the mayor’s office in a statement on May 15.

In June 2023, Johnson said outdoor dining, introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was “here to stay,” after the Chicago City Council approved an ordinance he introduced that restarted the Expanded Outdoor Dining Program that had expired at the end of 2022. Restaurants and bars were allowed to offer outdoor dining, from May 1 through October 31, immediately in front or next to their establishments. Hundreds of restaurants in Chicago participated in the program.

Reilly says he has informed the City of Chicago’s Chief Operating Officer, John Roberson, that he opposes partial closing of Clark Street and has asked him to “reconsider the permit conditions.”