Some Oak Park restaurants request street closure to accommodate outdoor dining

OAK PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Many suburban restaurants are setting their tables for outdoor dining as Gov. JB Pritzker moves Illinois toward a new reopening stage Friday.

In Oak Park, some restaurant owners say creating outdoor space to operate could mean the difference between surviving or not.

A block of Oak Park Avenue, just south of the train tracks, typically has tables and chairs on the sidewalks for patrons of local restaurants, but the dining spaces are absent this year.

The owner of George's Restaurant said out of his 37 years of business, this has been the most difficult time. His son, John Konstantos, suggested closing part of the street so they and other nearby restaurants can operate outdoors as permitted by the state in Phase Three of the governor's reopening plan.

Konstantos said the outdoor dining rule isn't fair.

"If you're going to do it outside, make it easier for other people to do it outside," he said.

The Village of Oak Park created a task force to find ways to help small businesses resume operations and survive the COVID-19 crisis.

Oak Park's mayor called a special meeting with trustees Thursday to discuss safe reopening options, including closing a section of Oak Park Avenue and loosening liquor restrictions.

"The village needs the revenue," Konstantos said. "If everywhere closes, what's going to happen? What's going to happen to this whole town?"

Jim Cozzens of Oak Park Brewing supports the idea.

"I got to give credit to John from George's. This may be the only thing we can do to save us," Cozzens said.

Next door to George's, Oak Park Brewing has kept its patio chairs in storage.

Cozzens hopes to be allowed to operate outside on Oak Park Avenue.

"It's critical because we are a young business, we have a lot of loans, a lot of debt. We can't survive like this," he said.

Those who spoke with ABC7 said they hope closing the section of the street will be relatively convenient for those in the area, as the block north of the tracks on Oak Park Avenue is already closed for construction.
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