Local restaurant owners react to the possibility of moving back a phase

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PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill. (WMBD) — The increasing amount of COVID-19 cases in Illinois could cause restaurants and bars to back-peddle in the reopening process.

Governor J.B. Pritzker spoke, Thursday, at the Peoria City-County Health Department and mentioned possibly implementing more restrictions if cases continue to surge.

Local restaurant owners said the news of going back to Phase 3 of Restore Illinois or imposing any restrictions is not news they’re pleased to hear and regression could be a huge blow to their businesses.

“Since we’ve been able to feed people inside our businesses have gone close to normal,” J.D. Comfort, owner of Jim’s Bistro, said.

One of the main changes restaurant and bar owners said they were looking forward to in Phase 4 was offering indoor dining again.

However, this would only be possibly with declining COVID-19 cases. According to Gov. Pritzker, cases are on the rise again in the state of Illinois.

“Right now things are not heading in the right direction,” Pritzker said. “If this region has four more days of people getting sicker and needing a hospital bed that means bars will close again and a possible reduction of services at restaurants.”

Hugh Higgins, who owns Hearth restaurant in Peoria Heights, said reducing services will hurt the restaurant industry.

“If we lose our indoor seating in the hottest month of the year, it’s going to hurt,” Higgins said. “It’s going to hurt business.”

Higgins said he understands the need to make tough choices for safety reasons, however, he said going back to previous stages is a process he doesn’t want to relive again.

“If we get to curbside pick up only like we did back in the beginning, it’ll be devastating,” Higgins said.

Comfort said reducing indoor services could possibly cost employees their jobs.

“It’ll be costly for us,” Comfort said. “We’ll lose probably about 50% of our business and have to lay off several employees.”

Both owners said their businesses abide by strict cleaning and social distancing guidelines and hope to see declining cases to avoid returning to a previous Phase.

Higgins said being able to still offer outdoor dining would be the only saving grace.

“If we could still seat outside, that will give us a little hope to hang on to,” Higgins said.

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