Coronavirus Illinois: Golf courses, nurseries reopen under modified stay-at-home order

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois is taking the first steps in reviving the state's economy under the modified stay-at-home order allowing certain businesses to reopen with restrictions.

Coronavirus in Illinois: Latest news on COVID-19 cases, Chicago area impact

Under the extended and modified order, all people over the age of 2 will be required to wear face masks or coverings in public when they can't social distance, as well as in indoor public spaces like public transportation, stores, and offices.

Read Gov. Pritzker's full modified stay-at-home order

Eager gardeners lined up at the Chalet Nursery and Garden Center in Wilmette Friday morning, delighted to be able to touch and feel what they plan to buy.

"I don't think I can explain it, that's how excited I am," shopper Sue Gregory said. "If you're a crazy gardener, this is the place you wanna be."

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In north suburban Wilmette, eager gardeners lined up at the Chalet Nursery and Garden Center.

"Garden centers need to have May," said Michael Anderson, owner of Sprout Home in Ukrainian Village. "It's the bulk of our business."

New measures are taking root to revive Illinois' economy. Certain businesses, like nurseries and garden centers, are now deemed essential and have been allowed to reopen with restrictions.

"The months of April, May and June are our peak business months and if we lose that, our business would be at great risk," Chalet's Jennifer Brennan said. "So this is a blessing."

But Sprout Home, which occupies a smaller space in a busy, popular Chicago neighborhood, wasn't quite ready to simply spring open the doors.

"We're packed in the month of May. If we opened our doors right now there would be 30 people in this shop right now and that's not safe for anybody," Anderson said. "We wouldn't be comfortable with that and we wouldn't want to put our customer base through that."

Instead, they're trickling back by fulfilling online orders.

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At the Chalet, customers and staff are required to wear a mask at all times and guests are required to adhere to social distancing guidelines by staying six feet apart.

Golf courses are also able to re-open Friday. Wilmette Golf Club sold out tee times in under 5 minutes for the weekend.

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Golf courses, garden centers and pet groomers are among the businesses allowed to reopen today under the new stay-at-home order.

"It's exciting," Giese said. "I don't know how well I'll golf today, but it's nice to get out. It's turning out to be a great day and you know, I think that when they start doing things like this, we may be seeing a ray of light at the end of the tunnel."

"It just feels great to be outside and breathe the fresh air and get some real exercise outside of my basement, talk to my brother other than on the phone," said Mark Doyle, golfer.

"The demand has been tremendous and people are ready," said Adam Kwiatkoski, general manager at Wilmette Golf Club. "With golf being a sport that people can get outside and I think a lot of folks feel pretty safe being in this kind of space that it's something they're looking forward to."

"Hopefully golf is an example leading the way to get other businesses open soon and hopefully the powers that be realize that," said Brian Broderick, owner of Carriage Greens Country Club in Darien.

The courses are allowed to open with restrictions: only twosomes can golf together and they're spreading those pairs apart by 15 minutes.

"You got golf courses that are generally 110 to 150 acres and if we can spread 50 people out over 150 acres, I think we're doing a pretty good job," Kwiatkoski said.

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Pet grooming businesses can reopen as well. The owner of Uncle Paws Grooming Salon in Chicago said they are already booked solid for the next three weeks.

"I couldn't wait to get back and now I've got all my furry friends here and we're ready to rock and roll," said owner Tina Kozinski.

She has implemented curbside drop off and pick up to keep contact to a minimum.

"Society needs to get back to normal," said customer Rose Stegner. "It really does, and I'm thankful!"

Some retail shops are also being allowed to reopen under similar guidelines as restaurants. Customers can call ahead or order online for things like clothes and home goods. Then they can pick it up curbside.

"We are very happy that this happened because as a mom and pop business we don't have a large safety net," said David Gomez, owner of East Side Florist.

But the new landscape is more difficult for some of the city's shops that have been doing things the old-fashioned way for decades.

"We've never had an online presence before, we've always done things the old-fashioned way," said Christine Altelio, sales associate at RR#1 in West Town.

She's pivoting, and personalizing, offering FaceTime shopping for that one-on-one exposure.

"I arrange for a time after they've paid for them to pick it up," Altelio said. "We wave at each other, we don't have any contact."

Just being able to open at all feels like a miracle. It's been a scary, uncertain six weeks.

"Just having the contact with our customers and knowing that our business is going to survive. We've been here 20 years, but something like this could have killed us. I know that it's not going to," she said.

Elective surgeries can now be scheduled and can start being performed May 11. Boating is back as well, but with only two people per boat.

Religious services will also be allowed to continue as long as they comply with social distancing guidelines. The services must be limited to ten people and religious organizations are encouraged to do online or drive-in services.

Some state parks like Chain O Lakes are open now, but with a caveat. State officials said you should bring a mask, keep socially distant and only two people per boat are allowed if you want to go out on the water.

"We don't' want to put anyone in a position that might be responsible for us having to make the regrettable, unfortunate decision of having to close them again," said Colleen Callahan, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Not all state parks are open, so check to see if the one you want to visit is before you go.

Officials are reminding people that this limited reopening only works if Illinois' COVID-19 numbers continue to improve, so you should continue to stay home as much as possible and follow social distancing guidelines and take health precautions whenever you can, especially wearing a face mask.
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