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No fines for 4 Gurnee-area restaurants that reopened indoor dining early in defiance of state 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.

The health department said that all four Gurnee-area restaurants that reopened together in mid-January in defiance of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions will not be fined or taken to court.

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.

Lake County Health Department Director of Environmental Health Lawrence Mackey said that officials visited the restaurants after two people filed complaints against them, the Daily Herald reported.

“We found them in violation on Jan. 21 and issued a warning that told them they would be rechecked for compliance in seven days,” Mackey told the Daily Herald.

On Tuesday, state officials moved Region 9, which includes Lake and McHenry counties, into Tier 1 from Tier 2, allowing for limited indoor dining to resume.

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That means the restaurants are no longer in violation of state restrictions because indoor dining has resumed. The restaurants will only be fined if they are in violation of other Tier 1 restrictions.

“We can only cite people for violations we observe,” Mackey said. “We can only assess if they are in compliance with the current restrictions.”

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.

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“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.

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 have 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.

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Lake County is currently in Tier 1 mitigations and could be placed into Phase 4 of reopening if the region’s positivity rate reaches 6.5% for three consecutive days. It is currently at 7.2%.