Coronavirus update: Illinois bars, restaurants close to dine-in customers as COVID-19 cases rise

ByDiane Pathieu, Cate Cauguiran, and Alexis McAdams WLS logo
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Illinois bars, dine-in restaurants close to limit COVID-19 spread
Illinois bars and restaurants closed to dine-in customers Monday night in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A normally busy stretch of popular dinner spots in downtown Chicago is now empty, as the 250,000 restaurants and bars across the state of Illinois prepare for mandated closures during the COVID-19 chaos.

As of 9:00 p.m. Monday, the businesses will no longer be able to service dine-in patrons in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, many are hoping customers will still call in for delivery or takeout orders.

"We ask people to show us their phone when they arrive," said Sydney Verwilst, founder and owner of Ingrained on Chicago's Near North Side. "We see the name and it's basically like handed out to the door and we're not even speaking."

Sydney and Andrew Verwilst have had to make tough decisions in light of the temporary in-dining restaurant and bar ban that went into effect tonight.

"It's really hard to operate under the current conditions, however, I think it's really important," Verwilst said.

After images of packed bars and restaurants over the St. Patrick's Day weekend spread, so did the concern over increased virus.

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Governor JB Prtizker reminded the public, "You have an obligation to act in the best interest of all people of this state."

"Pre order, pick up your food, or you can stay home and get delivery," said Sam Toia, President of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Under the state mandate, all customers must order ahead. People cannot just walk in, place an order and wait around.

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"Flattening the curve" refers to efforts in slowing down the spread of a virus even if it can't be stopped.

"They do not want people congregating around each other," Toia said.

The restaurant closures are just the latest attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, but restaurant owners say they are not sure what steps to take next.

"At first I was shocked. I never believed it would come to this. My next concern was for so many of our regular customers," said Lisa LaRoche- Sczurek, owner of the Original Pancake House.

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The Center for Disease Control says you should avoid large groups of people and stay at least 6 feet away from the nearest person.

"[Monday] happens to be payday for my employees, and uh, I don't have money to meet payroll," said George Lemperis, owner of Palace Grill Restaurant.

The Illinois Restaurant Association estimates that at least 60% of the restaurants in the state have delivery service or use a third-party app to do delivery, but some might choose to just shut down completely.

"Restaurant owners are working on what is best for them," Toia said. "Should they just close down? Should they try and do pickup and delivery? That is the discussion happening right now in the state."

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Food trucks are still open for business and restaurants with drive-thru windows and fast food establishments are expected to be jammed.

The order will be in effect until March 30, according to Governor Pritzker. He also says he will not rule out extending the closure even longer.

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The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931. More information can be found at the IDPH website and the Chicago Department of Public Health website.