Itasca mayor says village authorities won't enforce ban on indoor dining
Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn says village officials and police in town won't enforce a ban on indoor restaurant and bar service ordered by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to curb the spread of COVID-19.
During a State of the Village address on Tuesday, Pruyn read a letter he wrote to Pritzker urging the governor to lift the ban.
"I stand with the lucky restaurant owners who are barely making it and demand that you allow them to reopen their doors immediately," Pruyn said in the letter.
His message still came with a warning to restaurants, however. Pruyn said that although he doesn't intend to shut down these businesses himself, he believes restaurants should heed the state's and county's authority, especially the DuPage County Health Department, which grants restaurants operating licenses.
Pruyn said he met Friday with restaurant owners who said they were staying open in spite of the governor's order, which came last week.
"You are asking small-business owners to turn their backs on their employees and communities they serve," Pruyn said.
"This administration has found ways for schools, casinos, entertainment venues to operate safely. We need these restaurants open to have a fighting chance to be open in 2021. Our residents need their jobs and our economy relies on these businesses to remain viable."
Under the restrictions, casinos and entertainment venues also must shorten hours, close indoor dining and bar service, and restrict patrons to 25% of capacity or less. Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Friday that casinos have ventilation systems in place that many restaurants and bars do not.
The new restrictions do not apply to schools.
The governor's office issued reports last week on contact tracing in 69 Illinois counties, which showed 2,300 people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 had either worked at a bar or restaurant or visited one before their diagnosis. Bars and restaurants led the state in places where infected people had worked or visited in August and September, the reports showed.
Pruyn believes restaurants will fare better with better knowledge on mitigating the spread of the virus indoors with as well as financial support such as the Itasca Bucks program, in which residents were mailed vouchers they could use to help pay bills at local restaurants and breweries. It generated roughly $500,000 in revenue, Pruyn said.
He also said that outdoor dining will be difficult as it gets colder.
Pritzker urged business owners to check illinois.gov/dceo for information about $220 million in Business Interruption Grants to help tide small businesses over.
Bars and restaurants in DuPage County also can apply for a share of $2.5 million in aid in relief funds from the county and the business group Choose DuPage. Information is at www.choosedupage.com/reinvest-dupage. But Pruyn believes those funds -- estimated at $15,000 per business making less than $4 million -- will not be nearly enough.
"For some restaurants, that is only a few weeks' payroll," Pruyn said.
• Trey Arline is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.