Pritzker orders all bars, restaurant dining rooms closed

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday ordered all restaurants and bars in the state closed to customers at the end of business Monday until at least March 30, a sweeping measure aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Restaurants can continue serving pickup and drive-through customers and provide delivery during the two-week hiatus.

Pritzker announced the order during a news conference in which he lamented that many people had not heeded earlier suggestions to avoid crowds and public gatherings.

"The time for persuasion and public appeal is over," he said. "The time for action is now. This is not a joke."

The edict comes as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois rose to 93, up from 64 during Pritzker's media briefing Saturday.

Despite some of the unprecedented measures taken to curb COVID-19, Pritzker said the state will go forward with Tuesday's primary election as planned.

His move to close restaurants and bars has the backing of health authorities as well as the Illinois Restaurant Association.

"First and foremost, we want to protect the health of our customers and our team members," association President Sam Toia said. "We will remain diligent, helping employers to navigate the immediate challenges that come with rapidly changing situation."

Pritzker and Toia emphasized that they expect employees affected by the order would continue to get paid, though they also acknowledged it would hurt some workers and business owners.

"Every choice now is hard and it comes with real consequences for our residents," Pritzker said. "But as your governor, I cannot let the gravity of these choices prevent us from taking the actions that the science and the experts say will keep people safe."

The order didn't come as a complete surprise to Spiro Kondos, owner of Draft Picks sports bar and grill in Mount Prospect. Although he had a full bar Sunday afternoon, Kondos said it seemed like only a matter of time after the cancellation of sporting events and public gatherings.

"Is this the right decision? I'm not a doctor, but they have to take some type of drastic measures like this," he said. "Unfortunately, it's going to impact us tremendously."

Kondos said he would use the two weeks to clean the restaurant and find other ways to keep his 30 employees working.

"It's out of my control," he said.

At Countyline Tavern in Buffalo Grove, General Manager Mike Prusak said he's making plans to set up a curbside pickup program for customers.

"Obviously, it's not the best thing to happen to us, for sure," he said. "But I understand it's in the best interest of public health."

Officials said scenes of hundreds of revelers gathered at Chicago bars Saturday night to celebrate St. Patrick's Day weekend helped lead to Sunday's decision.

"I tried earlier this week to appeal to everyone's good judgment to stay home, to avoid bars, not to congregate in crowds. It's unfortunate that many people didn't take that seriously," Pritzker said.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the 29 new infections disclosed Sunday include the first cases in Champaign, Clinton, Sangamon, Whiteside and Winnebago counties.

"The number of positive test results that we are getting each day is increasing exponentially, and the number of counties across Illinois is also expanding," Ezike said. "People should assume that this novel coronavirus is in their communities. And we all need to take steps to protect ourselves and reduce the spread."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all restaurants and bars closed at the end of the business day Monday in a sweeping measure aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
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