Joliet restaurant Aurelio's Pizza reopens for indoor dining despite COVID-19 state mandate

JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) -- A Joliet restaurant, Aurelio's Pizza, joined the growing number of businesses defying a state mandate to keep dining rooms closed as COVID-19 cases rise.

"We had a choice of either close our doors, go out of business or open up safely as we knew we could and try to keep our head above water," said Luke Pascale, Aurelio's franchise owner in Joliet.

Pascale said he was following Illinois' COVID-19 protocol until last Wednesday.

"We've closed three times total from the governor's directives. The first one obviously back in March," Pascale said.

Pascale's location operates the dining room at 25% capacity and enforces an indoor mask policy.

Joe Aurelio, president and CEO of Aurelio's Pizza, said that all of their corporate-owned restaurants in Illinois are only open for carryout and delivery.

A statement from Aurelio's corporate said they encourage all of their franchisees to work with local officials to protect the health and safety of their employees and patrons, which is their first priority.

Gov. JB Pritzker made it clear that all restaurants have to follow the state mandate.

"Allowing a restaurant to open in defiance of the law is literally ignoring the fact that people will get sick as a result," Pritzker said.

The Will County Health Department recommended all establishments follow the state guidelines. The department said they respond to every COVID-19 complaint and enforce the rules per the state's attorney's office.

"I don't want to be fined but it's either close my doors or try to stay open and hope for the best," Pascale said.
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