“It’s a tragedy”; Local bars take financial hit on Blackout Wednesday under state’s restrictions

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The day before Thanksgiving is Blackout Wednesday, a night typically well-known for gathering in bars and drinking before traveling home for the holidays. It’s also a night bar employees look forward to

However, Illinois’ recent COVID-19 restrictions have prevented the public and bars from partaking. Local bar employees said their businesses would usually be packed wall-to-wall on Blackout Wednesday, but instead of taking orders Wednesday night, they were taking a financial hit.

Ken Allison, owner of Mack’s in downtown Peoria, said it’s sad to see how much bars are struggling to get by.

“The reality is that this is just an absolute tragedy,” Allison said.

The staff at Mack’s, which just opened up last year, said Blackout Wednesday is usually more popular for bars than New Years’. They said the state’s Tier Three Mitigations, cutting off indoor dining, are putting them in a tough spot.

“It’s cutting us off at the legs,” Jacob Dewey, executive chef at Mack’s, said. “It’s doing a lot to hurt our business. I mean, we’re seeing nothing now.”

During one of the busiest nights for bars, the establishment reflected a ghost town. Bottles sat on shelves, stools sat on tables and patrons sat at home.

“We entirely lost all of it because of it,” Dewey said. “We’re just trying to think of new ways to stay afloat amiss that. It’s crazy.”

He said the bar is implementing door dash and grub hub to supplement income.

It was a similar story, but different location over at the Neon Bison.

Madeline Fulton, one of the bartenders, said instead of hearing laughter and joy at the bar Wednesday, for the first few hours she was hearing “crickets.”

She said tending an empty bars is especially tough on the pockets of those who rely on tips.

“It’s shameful for people who really depend on this,” Fulton said. “You’re not making any money.”

However, she said she’s remaining optimistic for the bar.

Other local bars wanted to remain anonymous for fear of possible backlash but said the industry is devastated right now and many are trying to hang on to what they have. Some said although the state’s mitigations are meant for safety it feels like a sacrifice for business.

Allison said it’s a harsh reality that cannot be ignored.

“People are suffering,” Allison said. “People are losing their jobs and businesses are at risk of closing.”

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