Repurpose underutilized city buses as expansion or extension of restaurant dining.
This idea provides mobile extensions of indoor dining with the ability to heat an area and simultaneously allow air circulation in an existing piece of infrastructure with reduced use.
In summary the city would provide busses on streets adjacent to establishment where the typical seat and benches are removed to allow the space to be customized based on the businesses preference. This would provide the business would have expanded space to utilize for dining to provide a unique experience while maintaining their identity. Outside of busy periods of dining these units can be removed and relocated easily to free up roads for normal automobile traffic during the work week. Another platform this would provide would be small group rental of the bus where the participants would be able to travel through the city while enjoying a meal and beverages. An alternative to this would be mobile "food buses" that allow neighborhood favorites to travel more easily to area's of the city to serve meals and gain exposure to a subset of the Chicago community they would typically not be able to service in particular during Covid. This service would help retain CTA staffing.
The overhead in cost would be removal of seating of buses and operational expenses to distribute and keep heated for dining. Based on current covid limitations this would allow for 15 individuals in each bus or 4 parties of 4. For a restaurant on Randolph in the West loop you could stack 4 busses adjacent to a restaurant each table having its own window for ventilation and seat 64 customers. At an average check of 30 dollars per individual this would equate to $1920 for 1:30 reservation slot.
Since these buses are already owned by the city there would be minimal set up and clean up on a weekly basis if the road needs to be transitioned back to normal business use during the week day. A down side to yurts or huts is the lack of insulation and/or means to heat the unit. Buses already have this infrastructure and insulation. They are also mobile so can be distributed throughout the city to allow fair utilization of the platform to extend business. The implementation on the front end would require the city to commit a certain % of the bus fleet to this effort. 10% of the fleet would be ~180 buses that would need to have seats and supports removed for the winter to allow tables and chairs to be installed during dining.
This idea is not unique from a food truck or tourist event. Using the cities resources already available would help support extending business during winter months. The main avenues I see are expanded dinning space, mobile restaurants not restricted to brick and mortor, food trucks, and an experience that tours you through the city paired or themed with a particular restaurant or theme.
Although i have not run community studies to get feedback, local Chicagoians will be looking for a place to to enjoy a beer and food with friends in a safe environment this winter. Yurts, igloos and tents are intensive as that take up significant space and are labor intensive to set up/clean up. This solution provides an existing piece of shelter that is heated with ventilation and windows near each table. There has been a battle between food trucks and brick and mortor but this pandemic will require the 2 to come together. In addition we have seen the same trend with sprinter van renovations and the use of a mobile space to better utilize as a means of living for convenience and mobility purposes.
Bus space would be limited to the current occupancy of 15 people per 40' unit.