Governor Pritzker announced that restaurants and bars in DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, and Will counties will not be allowed to have indoor seating starting at 12:00 am Friday October 23, 2020. Subject to certain restrictions outdoor seating is still allowed.
But let us look at the real issue here. It is no longer July in Chicago and with temperatures topping off in the 40s this Saturday, sitting outside is not a great option for customers. And keep in mind that temperatures will only get colder in the next couple of months. Yes, some bars and restaurants have pods and heaters, etc., but smaller and independent bars and restaurants can not afford these contraptions.
Understanding we are in a difficult and unprecedented time; we all must work with each other towards the best outcome. But this measure for a blanket shut down of bars and restaurants has several problems.
First, according to Channel 7 news the outbreaks in DuPage County resulting from restaurants is 49 people. There is a total of 2,860 cases in DuPage, cases from restaurants represent .017% of all COVID cases. Further, there are 922,921 people in DuPage County, which means an estimated .00005% of the DuPage county population was infected due to restaurants. Which means restaurants are not creating the problem, they are essentially getting blamed for being open while numbers of COVID cases are going up. Simply put, the evidence that restaurants are the problem is lacking.
Second, we understand there are concerns with certain bars and restaurants playing fast and loose with the rules, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Punish those that break the rules and hold them accountable. There are many restaurant and bar owners that are doing everything they can to take all precautions necessary, and they are the reason the infection rate is low in restaurants.
By throwing a blanket ban over these restaurants, the state really defeats the purpose of the liquor license. Businesses agree to a liquor license and with it agree to be subject to regulatory control and subject to sanction. Now more than ever the state and local governments should utilize this licensing system to go after bad actors breaking the rules.
Enforcing through an all-encompassing ban takes away the privileges of a bar or restaurant’s liquor license, and punishes those that comply with their liquor license and all public health guidelines issued be the state.
In the end we should all work together; the government has a very legitimate interest in containing COVID. And we appreciate efforts to keep us safe. Being in government at this time and making these decisions is never easy.
But the hospitality industry has suffered enough. I have seen many bar and restaurant owners go to get lengths and expense to keep their patrons safe and infection rates low. They are responsible business owners and play by the rules, but in the end, they are coming out on the short end with no end in sight. One must wonder when is the last blow that knocks them down. I will tell you that are a resilient group that has fought against the tide. Never count them out, but the punches they keep taking make it harder to stand.