Nine Lake County restaurants fined for serving customers indoors during state ban
Nine Lake County restaurants and bars were fined this week for serving customers inside this winter during the state's second indoor dining ban.
Each restaurant was cited by the Lake County Health Department and found liable for violating the county's public nuisance ordinance.
Jimmy's Charhouse in Libertyville and Moretti's Ristorante & Pizzeria in Fox Lake were fined $550.
The other seven restaurants, represented at an adjudication hearing on Monday by attorney Thomas DeVore, received fines of $400 each. The restaurants fined $400 are The Point Pancake House in Gurnee, Fox Lake Family Restaurant in Fox Lake, Jen G's Pizza and Pub in Beach Park, Granny's Lakeside Diner in Antioch, Jesse Oaks Food & Drink in Grayslake, Whistle Stop Cafe in Fox Lake and Bootleggers in Antioch.
DeVore argued that the health department had "no real mechanism in the law" to enforce the state's indoor dining ban, so officials used the county's nuisance ordinance, which he said was the same rule residents violate if they let their grass grow too long.
"They played a fiction with local ordinance," DeVore said. "They didn't have a way to enforce it, so they had to use this ruse."
DeVore also argued that restaurant owners are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic and fining them served no purpose.
Lawrence J. Mackey, the Lake County Health Department director of environmental health, said the nine restaurants were the first in Lake County to be punished for serving inside since the onset of the pandemic last year.
State officials shut down indoor dining last March and again in November to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Donna Stewart, the owner of Bootlegger's, said she felt she had to stay open for indoor dining this winter for her business to survive. She said the bar halted indoor dining during the first ban, relying in the spring on carryout and delivery.
"But I couldn't do it again," Stewart said. "I would have lost it, I had no choice."
No other restaurant owner returned requests for comment Wednesday.