Editorial: Responses to indoor dining bans understandable, but concerning

  • Indoor dining bans have hurt restaurants, and some suburban owners are fighting back.

    Indoor dining bans have hurt restaurants, and some suburban owners are fighting back. Associated Press, 2016

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 10/28/2020 2:35 PM

With winter looming and weather limiting outdoor gatherings, Gov. J.B. Pritzker's warnings about spiking coronavirus cases Monday and his announcement of new restrictions for the suburbs came as a gut punch.

"Remember, this is not over," he said at a briefing in Peoria. "There seems to be a COVID-19 storm on the rise and we have to get prepared."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It would not be a stretch to say that much of that storm ripped through the suburban restaurant scene in recent days.

First, restaurants and bars in Du­Page, Kane and Will counties were closed to indoor dining. Suburban Cook followed suit this week. And while eateries in Lake County continue to be open, the clock may be ticking on their dining rooms as well.

Many owners, however, are fighting back. While we understand their frustration -- and question a few of the oddities of a rollback that affects some businesses, but not others -- we are deeply concerned about what lies ahead.

First, you have a few restaurants seizing on what's allowed in order to skirt what's not. So a suburban chain can host strangers with reservations at set times, as long as it calls the gatherings a "private event." And a local steakhouse can offer customers a "private dining room," putting all sorts of emphasis on the word "private."

Meanwhile, some other restaurant owners are launching more direct protests, openly defying the indoor dining ban.

Restaurant owners ask -- understandably so -- why they should close their dining rooms when other kinds of businesses can stay open. Yes, eating requires setting your mask aside. But so, for instance, does munching on candy in still-open movie theaters.

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It's problematic, and our hearts go out to those struggling to keep businesses going in these terrible times. Yet, we also are concerned by the inequities, and we worry that those restaurant owners flouting the rules are making it harder for those obeying them.

And, we wonder, wouldn't tightening our resolve now for a few weeks make it safer for all of us to dine out sooner?

The debate points to the need for continuing to refine what can be open safely -- and what cannot.

While we have lauded the governor for his quick actions in shutting down the state early in the pandemic, we hoped that he would have used the time since to work with the legislature or a bipartisan group to seek out collaborative solutions rather than relying on edicts. We call on him to do that now, and we urge him to join with other state leaders to provide relief to ailing businesses -- and to push Congress to do the same.

In the meantime, we as diners can acknowledge and reward businesses that put safety first and continue to support the suburban restaurants we love with our takeout and delivery orders. That way, we can help them weather whatever this brutal COVID-19 storm brings our way.

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