Indoor dining ban starts in DuPage, Kane, and so does defiance. How about enforcement?
When a Wheaton gym defied Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order in May, local police issued a cease-and-desist order.
That didn't mean Brickhaus Fitness immediately shut down. Instead, the process dragged on through several closure orders, a civil action, and finally a settlement and dismissal more than two months after the case began.
On Friday, as some restaurants in DuPage and Kane counties refused to end indoor table service, DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin said any enforcement would follow a similar pattern.
Police or other enforcement agencies would first have to present their information to the DuPage County Health Department. The health department would investigate, and if health officials want to proceed with legal action, they would ask the state's attorney to do so.
Berlin said there is no criminal statute that covers the matter.
Ki's Steak and Seafood in Glendale Heights, Ray's Family Restaurant in Elgin, Italian Pizza Kitchen in Roselle and Brauer House in Lombard all indicated on Facebook Friday afternoon that they would stay open for dine-in business.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state health authorities have said that violating the state's public-health code is a misdemeanor, punishable by $75 to $2,500 in fines. The governor said state police will be in the counties, including DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will, where indoor restaurant and bar service were banned, among other restrictions, because of rising rates of COVID-19.
Pritzker said police would first issue warnings, but then there is potential for "people to be cited."
"The police will be reporting back on places that have liquor licenses and gaming licenses that are not following the rules and we'll begin the process to possibly revoke the licenses," the governor said.
Many restaurant owners have complained about losing business and said they are singled out for restrictions. State officials say other businesses face new rules as well and that they have data behind their decisions.
The governor's office issued a series of reports this week that detailed how contact tracing in 69 Illinois counties showed 2,300 people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 had either worked at a bar or restaurant or visited such establishments before their diagnosis.
Bars and restaurants led the state in places where infected people had worked or visited between August and September, the reports showed. Workplaces other than offices, hospitals or health clinics, and schools rounded out the top four categories where infected residents reported they had spent lengthy amounts of time before becoming ill.
"I understand how difficult it is," Pritzker said. "Many small businesses have their entire livelihoods at risk and the potential for the closure of their business permanently as a result of this virus."
He urged business owners to check illinois.gov/dceo for information about $220 million in Business Interruption Grants to help tide small businesses over.
"We're fighting to get these resources to small businesses in Illinois," Pritzker said. "Unfortunately, we still have to live by the rules here because we don't want people to get sick and die. So, I would ask people to try to live by the rules that we've set."
Many restaurant owners have complained about losing indoor business while casinos are allowed to continue operating. However, casinos in the affected regions have also had restrictions imposed.
The casinos are restricted to 25% capacity, had their hours of operation cut, and cannot serve food or beverages for on-site consumption.
The Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, for example, posted on Facebook that it would hand out bottles of water at the door to patrons, and that several of its restaurant and club areas are closed.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said casinos also have ventilation systems in place that many restaurants and bars do not.
"There have been very rigorous plans on how to space and keep people away from each other," she said. "And when we talk about exposure sites, I don't see casinos come up. Maybe the mitigation measures that are in place may be working, or many people may not be going there."
Some legislators are urging Pritzker to ease up on the restrictions to restaurants.
"It's hard to deny that congregating at a bar, often shoulder-to-shoulder with people you don't know, is a big contributor to the spread of the virus," said Republican state Sen. Don DeWitte of St. Charles. "I'm not refuting that, as it is very difficult to control your social environment in that sort of setting. But what does come into question is why the governor is lumping food table service with those kinds of activities."
At Brickhaus Fitness, Wheaton police issued a cease-and-desist order May 16. When it was not obeyed, they turned the matter over to the county health department. Department officials told the business to shut May 20, but it didn't.
Two closure orders were delivered. Then on May 26, the state's attorney filed its action, in civil court. The first court hearing was June 11. The two sides ultimately worked the matter out and the case was dismissed July 20.