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Some Lake County restaurants reopen indoor dining in defiance of Gov. Pritzker’s restrictions

Timothy O’Toole’s Pub in Gurnee is one of several restaurants that has reopened their indoor dining at a limited capacity. | Photo: Google Street View.

Four Lake County restaurants have announced they have safely reopened indoor dining on Friday in defiance of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

The coalition of restaurants includes Timothy O’Toole’s Pub in Gurnee, Stevens’ in Gurnee, Kaiser’s Pizza and Pub in Gurnee, and The Shanty in Wadsworth.

The restaurants issued a joint statement on January 7 that they would reopen their establishments at a “25% social-distanced reduced indoor capacity” on January 15.

“For the past ten months, our establishments have restructured nearly every aspect of our business models to follow all health recommendations for the safety of our patrons and work families. Our commitments to our community have gone far beyond the guidelines, and our restaurants currently remain among the last closed for indoor dining service,” the statement said.

“Our teams have sacrificed a lot since March with two full indoor shutdowns, but we stand together and are very proud of the decisions we have made as a restaurant community,” the statement added.

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The owners of the four restaurants met and decided on reopening their indoor dining. They also notified local health officials of their decision.

The owners also said their four restaurants were recently denied Illinois Business Interruption Grants because the state ran out of money to fund the program.

Riverside Cafe in Gurnee has also announced they were reopening indoor dining at 25% capacity. “We are local, we are real people with real employees that depend on us to be able to provide for their families. We stand behind every single restaurant that has decided to open in a safe manner,” the owner said in a social media post.

The Lake County Health Department said in a statement that they are aware some restaurants are open for indoor dining. They said that indoor dining is still prohibited under the governor’s executive order.

“Our policy has been and will continue to be that when we are made aware of restaurants violating the mitigation restrictions, we will contact them and if they choose to continue serving indoors, they will be issued a citation for violating the Lake County Public Nuisance Ordinance by creating or allowing conditions that are potentially detrimental to the health of the inhabitants of Lake County,” health officials said in the statement.

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They said that fines may be assessed and other enforcement measures may be taken if there is evidence that transmission of COVID-19 has occurred or is likely to occur.

The Illinois Restaurant Association said that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s announcement on Friday that restaurants will be able to have indoor dining once their region is in Tier 1 “falls short of the restaurant industry’s critical needs and expectations.”

“As outlined, restaurants in all of our state’s regions will remain closed for indoor dining until they reach Tier 1 – adding to growing debt, devastating job loss, and business closures. Additionally, the restaurants located in Tier 1 regions able to offer limited indoor dining can do so only at the lesser of twenty-five percent capacity, or 25 total guests per room. No restaurant can break even at that volume, let alone hire back their team members,” the association said.

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“As one of the most highly regulated industries in terms of health and safety – and with enhanced measures introduced during COVID-19 – Illinois restaurants know how to protect the wellbeing of their guests and team members. They are capable of safely serving more guests than what the state will currently allow, and they need more to survive this crisis. For the sake of the nearly 100,000 restaurant industry workers who lost their jobs between February and November, we urge the state to revisit this strategy and place more faith in the industry that for so long has served as Illinois’ largest private-sector employer,” the association added in their statement.