Des Plaines mayoral candidates disagree on following Pritzker's last restaurant mandate

Des Plaines City Council voted last year to enforce Pritzker's temporary restriction

Only one of the three mayoral hopefuls in Des Plaines supports the city council's decision last year to enforce a temporary ban on indoor restaurant dining and bar service ordered by Gov. J.B. Pritzker because of rising COVID-19 infection rates.

Candidate and 8th Ward Alderman Andrew Goczkowski voted to uphold the state-mandated ban, and he stood by that vote Tuesday in a joint interview with the Daily Herald.

“I think we did the right thing, and I'd do it again,” he said.

One of Goczkowski's rivals for the big chair, 6th Ward Alderman Malcolm Chester, opposed enforcing the restrictions because he saw neighboring communities refusing to back the ban.

“I was wondering how effective (the ban) would be against COVID if I just went two miles down the street and went into another restaurant,” Chester said Tuesday.

The third candidate, former 8th Ward Alderman Michael Charewicz, disagreed with the city's enforcement stance, too.

Goczkowski, Chester and Charewicz are running to succeed Mayor Matthew Bogusz, who is unable to run again because of local term limits.

The three candidates spoke with the Daily Herald about the pandemic and other issues remotely.

With Bogusz breaking a tie, the city council voted 5-4 in November to enforce Pritzker's renewed restrictions on indoor restaurant service. The decision followed a lengthy string of pleas from local restaurateurs concerned about keeping their businesses afloat.

Conversely, officials in Arlington Heights and other suburbs protested the restrictions or said they wouldn't enforce them.

Goczkowski said Des Plaines is part of a bigger team when it comes to public health issues, and making independent decisions on such issues is “a little bit outside our purview.”

“I don't think that we made a mistake,” said Goczkowski, an alderman since 2019. “We had an obligation to do what was right.”

Chester said he would've conferred with other municipal leaders and sought consensus on how to proceed if he was mayor at the time.

“We were left with a situation where people could literally drive two miles — or in my case, walk — to the next-door community and dine indoors, while in our community we weren't allowed to,” said Chester, who has been on the city council since 2015 and ran for mayor in 2017.

Charewicz said officials knew restaurants in some nearby suburbs weren't following the no-dining order.

“They were taking our Des Plaines residents,” said Charewicz, who was on the council from 2011 to 2019. “We really should have kept the restaurants open.”

The choice of eating indoors or not should've been left to residents, Charewicz said.

“We didn't even give them that choice,” he said.

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