Attorney files suit to allow 37 McHenry County restaurants to stay open
A Crystal Lake attorney filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of 37 McHenry County restaurants, hoping to bring the state's mitigation plans to a halt and allow those restaurants to continue serving customers indoors.
Crystal Lake lawyer John Dickson wrote a 78-page-lawsuit on behalf of bar and restaurant owners who say they can't afford another two-week partial shutdown. The petition will be heard in McHenry County court at 10 a.m. Friday, when a judge could issue a ruling.
Dickson claims Gov. J.B. Pritzker's emergency powers expired April 11, seeks to void the governor's order as it pertains to each restaurant in the suit. He also filed a petition for an emergency temporary restraining order to prevent Pritzker from enforcing the mitigation rules set to begin Saturday.
A similar complaint was successfully filed in Kane County on behalf of FoxFire Restaurant against Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Kane County Health Department. It stated Pritzker has exceeded the emergency powers given to him.
Pritzker and IDPH have appealed that decision.
"He had 30 days to make a disaster declaration and we're well beyond 30 days," Dickson said. "It's unfair that small mom and pop businesses are getting shut down by the governor and Walmart isn't.
"He's killing small business in the state."
McHenry County Judge Thomas Meyer could rule on Dickson's request Friday morning. Should either party appeal that ruling, a decision should return from the Illinois 2nd District Appellate Court within two weeks, Dickson said.
Pritzker announced the mitigation restrictions Wednesday, as the region made up of McHenry and Lake counties entered its third consecutive day above the 8% positivity threshold.
It means even bar and restaurant owners who felt they followed every IDPH guideline are again required to refuse indoor services.
Several local business owners have said they plan to remain open, risking potential state-enforced consequences.
"We're certainly not rule-breakers. We're not trying to politicize what's going on with our restaurant," said Sallie LaBue, owner of 750 Cucina Rustica in Cary. "We're a two-generation family business. This is our livelihood. It's not just a career we have."
LaBue opened her business in Cary in 2017. In September 2018, a fire caused LaBue to close her restaurant for several months. She reopened in December 2018, and was forced against to close when statewide COVID-19 restrictions took effect in March.
"We can't do it this time around," LaBue said. "We don't have the option of outdoor dining. I don't have the heart to tell my staff they have to stay home."
McHenry County was home to 6,631 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, up 99 cases since Tuesday, and 120 people in the area have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to McHenry County Department of Health data. The county's recovery rate remained at 97% as of Wednesday evening.
The restaurants included in the suit were: Andy's Restaurant, Fire Bar, The Cottage, Around the Clock Restaurant, Tony's Cafe, The Breakers, Pablo's Family Fiesta and Whiskey and Wine of Crystal Lake; Cary restaurants 750-degree Cucina Rustica, The Hidden Tap, The Tracks Bar & Grill, and Cary Ale House & Brewing Company; Algonquin's Bold American Fare, Cattleman's Burger and Brew, Burnt Toast II, Bubs Subs, and Cucina Bella; Woodstock's D.C. Cobb's, BBQ King Smokehouse, Offsides Sports Bar and Grill, Benton Street Tap, The Cabin and the Public House of Woodstock.
Others included will be McHenry restaurants Metalwood Grille, D.C. Cobb's, Buddyz Pizza, Kim and Patty's Café and Windhill Pancake Parlor; Lake in the Hills' Woods Creek Tavern and Dino's Pizza & Pasta; BBQ King Smokehouse and Papa G's of Huntley; Union's Clasen's Tavern, Hebron's Harts Saloon and Hoops Sports Bar & Grill, Harvard's Rosati's and Stucky's Bar & Grille of Johnsburg.
Dickson said there was not be time to file a class-action measure that would work for all restaurants not named in the suit. If he's successful, however, Dickson's lawsuit could serve as an outline for other restaurants looking for similar relief, he said.