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Through snow and sleet, restaurants plot for busy outdoor dining season

Through snow and sleet, restaurants plot for busy outdoor dining season

Snow. Hail. Sun. Rain. Repeat.

It's certainly not ideal alfresco dining weather now, but rest easy, Chicagoans: Warmer temps are coming and hundreds of restaurants are setting up tables, chairs and umbrellas, preparing for cooped-up Midwesterners to break out of their winter doldrums and plop down at a patio.

More eateries than ever are expected to serve their salads and sidecars outdoors this year. The number of alfresco options has climbed steadily since sidewalk cafes began here three decades ago. But in recent years, they're also appearing much earlier — the number of permit applications in the first three months of the year jumped by nearly 70 percent from...

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