Illinois coronavirus: Elburn restaurant opens indoor dining, defying state orders and risking spread of COVID-19

ELBURN, Ill. (WLS) -- Eddie Gaedel's Pub and Grill has pulled back the curtain and reopened their bar that has been closed to diners and drinkers since mid-March. The indoor dining room is now open to 50 percent capacity.

"Basically, a matter of necessity," said manager Brandon Keffler. "The business, we were just kind of sitting back and watching it go under. We figured we had to do something about it."

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The small family-owned pub started serving in person last Wednesday, blatantly defying the Illinois extended stay-at-home order prohibiting in-person, indoor restaurant service. Even outdoor service can't start until Friday.

"The biggest thing was that the local township here in Elburn, they decided that they weren't going to enforce government mandates for the state of Illinois," Keffeler said. "With their backing, we decided to just give it a shot."

"It's not about resources and cost of that, it is about constitutional rights and what we perceive to be the people's constitutional rights being affected," said Elburn Police Chief Nick Sikora.

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"If the local police were going to be giving us problems, then there's no way we could have done it," said Keffeler.

Even with the blessing of the village and Kane County law enforcement, some other restaurants have chosen to stay closed. And at Eddie Gaedel's, the manager said some employees didn't feel safe returning to work, at least not yet.

"We're very much aware it's a real thing," Keffeler said. "We're aware of how serious it is. But at the end of the day, we have to save our business."

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Some of the first customers back had little appetite for the state-mandated closure.

"There's no such thing as an airborne virus. Never has been," said Nathan Cherek, patron. "Virology, pathogen science. It hasn't change here recently. All the things they're using to scare everyone were a lie from the first time they said it, and it still is."

State data shows COVID-19 has infected more than 5,900 people and killed 155 in Kane County since March, including three so far this week. Plastic hangs inside the pub as a level of protection, but masks, for employees and customers, are optional.

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