Restaurants can open with for outdoor seating, business owners say it’s a step in the right direction but not enough

Local News

NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) –McLean County business owners say the bumped up re-opening of bars and restaurant’s outdoor spaces is a good step, but not a big enough step.

Of course there are a few safety guidelines they are to follow but many say they are ready for the new “normal.”

On Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state is by no means out of the woods but directionally things are getting better.

“I think it’s going to be great we can finally get some money back in our pockets, get the economy rolling, and finally getting back to what a normal was for us by working weekly,” said Davin Garrett, owner of Underground Barbershop.

Pritzker switched up the Restore Illinois Plan, allowing businesses to re-open starting May 29, a month earlier than what he originally said. However, Peter Connolly co-owner of Maggie Mileys says its still not enough.

“They’re opening up a little bit, and they are giving us a chance to do something different,” said Connolly. “Unfortunately not a lot of places can open sidewalk seating.

Pritzker says, restaurants are only allowed to have outdoor tables.

“Normally we have about four tables outside,” said Connolly. “I think we can probably fit three at the most, which is not bad, but it’s still not anywhere near what we need in order to be able to function even remotely near normal.”

But Garrett says re-opening in any capacity will help, as so much of the barbershop industry relies on face to face conversation.

“I think it’ll be rejuvenating,” he said. “That interaction with clients, walk-ins, or individuals period. We need those interactions as barbers, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Both Garrett and Connolly said the pandemic has taught them new safety habits they plan to implement come May 29.

Tazewell County Chairman Dave Zimmerman said the loosened restrictions is good news. “With people taking the appropriate precautions we nee to do this, this is really killing our local restaurants,” he said.

While leaders are aware that every restaurant does not have outside seating, some said they are willing to get creative and accommodate them.

“I know this is gonna be difficult for restaurants that don’t have any space to do out door dining and that’s something we’re all gonna have to deal with,” Mayor Gary Manier of Washington said.

Meanwhile, Central Illinois leaders said they have not received feedback or approval from the governor for the Heart of Illinois Regional Re-Opening plan. Originally, they said without Pritzker’s approval they would still move forward. Now, they have back-tracked. Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said it was never their intention to trump the stay-at-home order, adding the regional plan will most likely coincide with the state’s plan.

Ardis said protocol needs to be sent out to business owners, and once those owners have reviewed the information Ardis said they will be ready to open. He said it is anticipated that the HOI re-opening plan will be set into motion by the end of this week or next.

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