Some Illinois Restaurants Want To Open Sooner, Gov Disagrees

May 8, 2020

Illinoisans won’t be able to eat at restaurants until the end of June at the earliest, under the governor’s plan to reopen the state. The statewide association representing restaurants is pushing to move that up to the end of May.

Promising its members will provide masks, gloves and other equipment to staff, limit seating in dining rooms and space out tables – the Illinois Restaurant Association is making a pitch for bars and restaurants to open sooner.

“This approach underestimates the restaurant industry’s ability to reopen and operate safely with enhanced public health measures in place,” reads a statement on the association’s Facebook page.

The association is asking people to write letters to the governor and lawmakers seeking the change.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker defended his decision to wait until phase four of his five-step plan, saying he heard reasons from epidemiologists he consulted to wait another month before restaurants can welcome diners.

“The number of people who come in contact with the thing that you're ultimately getting delivered to you, and that can't be delivered in a socially distant way is the reason,” he said at a Friday press briefing. “It’s difficult to do. We have to watch all these other industries open and see what effect that has on all the numbers as we think about opening restaurants and bars.”

Salons, barber shops and offices could all open sooner, under the governor’s plan.

Still, the restaurant industry representatives say they are equipped to handle more regulations and operate safely during a pandemic.

“Everyone that works in the industry is highly-trained in proper food handling and sanitation already, and we are heavily-regulated and frequently-inspected by public health officials on a regular basis,” the Illinois Restaurant Association’s letter reads. “We want to work with the state on developing these pragmatic regulations that will prioritize public health and safety while giving restaurants the opportunity to resume their dine in operations in a timely manner.”

The statewide plan is divided up by regions – so restaurants could open earlier in central Illinois, for example, than in Chicago.