Smoking in restaurants?
Coming from Boston, where smoking is banned in restaurants, I'm wondering what the law/policy is in Chicago. I'd really like to avoid smoke, if at all possible, when we come to visit. . .
You will have no problem with smoke in Chicago restaurants. It's banned in almost all public places.
The City of Chicago has a FAQ about the Clean Air Ordinance that explains how the smoking ban works. The act bans smoking in restaurants without a "bar area," but you may want to be aware that until July 2008, bars/taverns (any place that derives 65% or more of gross proceeds from alcohol sales) are exempt from smoking prohibitions, and "restaurants with a bar area" are allowed to permit smoking within 15 feet of their bar counter.
Be warned that a few restaurants have booths or banquettes back to back where one side is smoking and the other nonsmoking because of where the 15-foot line goes. Otherwise, most places have pretty good separation while a fair number of restaurants that could allow smoking in part of the place have gone smoke-free anyway. The other side is that compliance may be less than perfect in some Middle Eastern and Eastern European ethnic places.