St. Charles reinstates late-night bar and restaurant permits

  • The St. Charles City Council voted unanimously Monday to reinstate the city's late-night permits for bars and restaurants.

      The St. Charles City Council voted unanimously Monday to reinstate the city's late-night permits for bars and restaurants. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/20/2020 5:30 AM

As the COVID-19 positivity rate continues to rise in Kane County, the St. Charles City Council voted unanimously on Monday to reinstate late-night bar and restaurant permits that were suspended nearly two months ago in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Monday's vote, however, may not matter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If Region 8 of the Restore Illinois map, which includes Kane and DuPage County, reports a positivity rate higher than 8 percent for a third straight day on Tuesday, state-mandated restrictions may be put in place as soon as Wednesday. Those restrictions could include no indoor service at bars and restaurants, and requiring those establishments to close at 11 p.m.

For one day, though, the 24 bars and restaurants in St. Charles with late-night permits that allow them to stay open until either 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. had reason to be hopeful. The late-night permit ordinance goes into effect Saturday and lasts until April 30.

"We're trying to make this work for all of you," said St. Charles Ward 5 Alderman Maureen Lewis, addressing the bar and restaurant owners in attendance at Monday's meeting. "I really ask you to make this work for all of us. It's a tremendous amount of trust that's just been put back into every one of you here."

St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina issued an executive order on August 25 and was backed by a unanimous City Council vote to suspend late-night permits for bars and restaurants, forcing them to close at midnight. After a plea from bar and restaurant owners to reconsider the suspension, a vote on an ordinance for a late-night permit with restrictions was placed on the agenda for Monday's meeting.

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But instead of voting on the restricted permit -- which read that no new patrons could enter an establishment after midnight and anyone wishing to exit and re-enter after midnight required a wristband or stamp -- the City Council decided to withdraw that ordinance and vote to fully reinstate the permits.

The affected businesses now simply have to pay a prorated fee for the permits -- the fees were refunded when the suspension went into effect -- and they can return to late-night hours on Saturday.

Aldermen offered different reasons for forgoing the restricted permits and moving straight to fully reinstating them. Some said it was too difficult to monitor a restricted permit while others pointed to no definitive correlation between closing bars early and lower COVID-19 numbers.

Others said without neighboring communities also closing establishments early, the St. Charles suspension of late-night permits lacked effectiveness.

Now the city awaits Tuesday's numbers from the Illinois Department of Public Health to see if the Region 8 restrictions will take effect.

"We could go to a place where your bars and restaurants are not open at all, but it's back to takeout," Rogina said.

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