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Area restaurants defy Pritzker’s mitigation order

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Branding Iron in Bridgeview is allowing customers to eat inside despite Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s latest order.
By Bob Bong
Now that all of Illinois has fallen under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s latest restaurant and tavern mitigation order, some restaurant owners are saying enough is enough.
Les Brothers restaurants in Hickory Hills and Oak Lawn erected tents earlier this year to allow diners to eat outside.
“ We put tents in front of all three locations,” Georgia Les, a manager for the family-owned chain, said in May.
“ We still have the tents,” she said Monday. “But we are allowing customers to sit inside at all of our locations.” The chain operates Les Brothers restaurants at 8705 S. Ridgeland Ave. in Oak Lawn and 7730 W. 95 th St. in Hickory Hills, as well as Prime Time at 7750 W. 95 th St.
Les said she was not worried about losing state liquor or business licenses as a result of allowing customers to dine inside.
“ Our restaurants are very clean,” she said. “We follow all CDC guidelines. Our tables are distanced. Workers wear masks. We put plexiglass between all of the booths in all of our restaurants.”
On Chicago’s Southwest Side, the owners of the Red Barrel restaurant at 5214 S. Archer Ave. said they would defy both the governor’s order and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s order and allow dine-in service.
Tom McAuliffe, who owns Durbin’s locations across the south suburbs as well as the Branding Iron in front of SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, is also keeping his restaurants open despite the governor’s order.
“ I’m trying to keep my employees working,” he said Monday. “They have bills to pay. We’re all trying to survive.”
McAuliffe said the latest shutdown order didn’t make sense to him.
“ The restaurant business is the most regulated industry in Illinois except for hospitals,” he said. “We are the most sanitized industry except for hospitals. Why are we being picked on.
“ You can get a haircut. You can go into a hardware store. You can have 200 people in a grocery store. But you can’t have people enjoy a meal or a drink? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
He is a bit concerned he might be shut down by the state. “I don’t want them to come after me, but if we don’t stay open, we’ll all be gone anyway.”
Chris Manolis, who has owned Blueberry Hills café in LaGrange for 20 years, said the latest shutdown order “felt like a big punch in the gut when you lose your breath.”
But flaunting the order is not smart, he says.
“ If you don’t abide, they’ll pull your liquor license, your license to operate. It’s a bad situation,” Manolis, 60, said.
“ I hope it’s a temporary thing because if they do a month of this, there’s going to be a lot of little businesses going up for sale,” Manolis said.
Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz also thinks defying the governor’s order isn’t the right thing to do.
“ Defying the order puts your business at greater risk,” he said, citing possible state action for business licenses, liquor licenses and gaming licenses.
Municipal officials are also split on enforcement of the order.
In Summit, village officials sent out a warning to business owners that they face fines if found in violation of the governor’s order.
In Orland Park, Mayor Keith Pekau, a vocal opponent of shutdowns, said the village would not take steps to enforce the order.
He said it was up to state agencies to enforce the order.
“ All we’re asking is for simple enforcement,” Pritzker said at a news conference Monday in response to a question about pushback to the new restrictions. “Many, many restaurants and bars are doing the right thing. They’re either using outdoor tents, or they’re just providing pickup and delivery service or drive-through during this difficult period.”
A group calling itself We’re Staying Open has released a list of south suburban restaurants that it says are staying open despite the governor’s order.
The list includes Les Brothers, Red Barrel, Branding Iron and Durbin’s, as well as Ryan’s Public House in Brookfield, West 79 Sports Bar in Burbank, Berger Station in Chicago Ridge, At The Office Sports Bar And Grill, Brazen Head, Thirsty Beaver, Longford Pub, and The Hideout in Crestwood, Jameson’s in Frankfort, Flannery’s Pub and Jack’s Place in Midlothian, Gina’s Teardrop Café and White Horse Inn in New Lenox, Huck Finn in Oak Lawn, Rooftop Tap, Capri Ristorante Italiano, X’s & O’s Sports Bar and Franklins Public House in Palos Heights.
Mitigation measures include:
Bars
• No indoor service
• All outside bar service closes at 11 p.m.
• All bar patrons should be seated at tables outside
• No ordering, seating, or congregating at bar (bar stools should be removed)
• Tables should be 6 feet apart
• No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting
• No dancing or standing indoors
• Reservations required for each party
• No seating of multiple parties at one table
Restaurants
• No indoor dining or bar service
• All outdoor dining closes at 11 p.m.
• Outside dining tables should be 6 feet apart
• No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting
• Reservations required for each party
• No seating of multiple parties at one table
Meetings, Social Events, Gatherings
• Limit to lesser of 25 guests or 25 percent of overall room capacity
• No party buses
• Gaming and Casinos close at 11:00 p.m., are limited to 25 percent capacity, and follow mitigations for bars and restaurants, if applicable
These mitigations do not currently apply to schools.
In the coming days, IDPH will continue to track the positivity rate in suburban Cook County to determine if mitigations can be relaxed, if additional mitigations are required, or if current mitigations should remain in place.
If the positivity rate averages less than or equal to 6.5 percent over a three-day period, there is a decrease in hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illness over a three-day period, and the three-day rolling averages of ICU bed availability and medical/surgical bed availability is greater than or equal to 20 percent over a seven-day period, the region will return to Phase 4 mitigations under the Restore Illinois Plan.
According to the governor, the past week was one of the worst single-week increases in regional positivity across the state since the spring, with none of the regions experiencing a decrease in their positivity rates.
The lowest increase in any region was by 1.2 percentage points, which was in Region 5 in southern Illinois, and the highest was a 3.1 percentage point increase in Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee counties.
The state’s rolling seven-day average case positivity rate reached 8.1 percent, which is the highest level since May 28. Monday’s one-day positivity rate of 9.1 percent was the highest recorded since June 2.

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