Coronavirus Indiana: Restaurants in Lake County begin reopening at half capacity

HIGHLAND, Ind. (WLS) -- More businesses and restaurants reopened Monday in Lake County, Indiana as part of the second phase of Governor Eric Holcomb's reopening plan.

Restaurants, malls, salons can reopen with restrictions in place, including social distancing and only 50 percent capacity allowed.

Les Café in Highland, a staple in this community for 16 years, officially opens it's doors to customers once again at 6 a.m.

Owner Bill Les says he lost 75 percent of his business during the shutdown and is ready to welcome customers once again.

"We are trying to be good stewards of what's been entrusted to us, like yes, we want to be open but we don't want to get people sick," Les said. "Our bleach bucket is our best friend."

Slowly but surely, customers trickled in. Edward and Debbie Steinbach have been coming to Les Cafe every day since it opened, and admit it feels different:

"It's strange for us, not seeing other people, because normally it's crowded and now that everything is so different it's just strange for us," Debbie said.

"We've been coming here for 16 years now, so it's like back to normal," Edward said.

Across Lake County other businesses are open as well. Southlake Mall, tattoo parlors, barbershops can allow customers at 50 percent capacity.

On Monday some mall shoppers went in wearing masks, some not.

"I'm excited because I want to get some new things but I'm kind of nervous because of everything that's happened so far. I'm going to make sure to keep my six foot distance," said Natasha Daniels, a customer.

While Merrillville's Southlake Mall officially opened its doors Monday, most businesses inside remain closed.

Among the exceptions were hair and nail salons, open by appointment only, as well as sporting goods stores, Some had lines of customers waiting outside as staff limited entry to a handful of people at a time.

"It was pretty awesome. I came to get my nails and my feet done," said Kim King, a customer. "My nail tech called me last night and said do you want to come in? And I said yes!"

There are still some closures in place, which include gyms, bars, pools and entertainment venues.

Indiana state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, is encouraging everyone to keep in mind that the threat of COVID-19 hasn't gone away. He says business owners should take all the necessary precautions. He also said Indiana has a new program to help them provide personal protective equipment for their workers.

"Me, being a resident and also representing the city of Gary, Gary as well as Lake County has one of the larger number of cases in the state," Melton said.

The governor hopes to have the whole state up and running again by July 4.
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