As the first snow of the season descends upon the Chicago area (and patios become increasingly unpractical) a group of restaurant owners outside the city are defying Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants. Pritzker’s order came last week affecting DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, and Will counties — four areas that account for 8 percent of positive cases, according to the Herald & Review.
One restaurant, FoxFire in Geneva, has filed a lawsuit against Pritzker, according to the Kane County Chronicle. The restaurant seeks a temporary restraining order to halt Pritzker’s ban. As Rich Miller over at Capital Fax points out, Kane County’s seven-day positivity rate was at 11.5 percent on Sunday. Chicago Health Department Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwardy last week said that the danger zone that would trigger an indoor dining ban in Chicago would be 8 percent. The city was hovering around 7 percent over the weekend. Some Chicago restaurant owners are worried that a city ban could come this week as hospitalizations and other metrics increase.
Despite the governor’s warning that state police are prepared to penalize violators, operators at restaurants including Fozzy’s Bar and Grill near Rockford; Lockport Stagecoach in Will County; and Ki’s Steak and Seafood in West Suburban Glendale Heights have made public their decisions not to comply. The Winnebago County health department has already taken action against violators in Rockford, including Fozzy’s, according to reporters. Owners have claimed their defiance is not a political move.
“We are NOT trying to be rebellious or are anti-masks, anti-people’s health or any of the other nonsense,” owners at Lockport Stagecoach wrote in a Facebook post. “This is a decision out of survival.”
Some local officials have issued new rules to circumvent the governor’s order. A rule issued Friday in Winnebago County allows indoor service with a 90-minute limit. That county’s health department has warned that despite local leniency, state law enforcement could include criminal misdemeanor charges.
Bar and restaurant owners in Chicago and the suburbs have expressed frustration with rapidly-changing regulations that force sometimes significant alterations on the fly. Many, including Fozzy’s owner Nick Fosberg, have stated that their top concern is keeping the doors open and workers employed. But while health experts have found that eating indoors at a restaurant brings on an increased likelihood of contracting COVID-19, it’s those same workers who face the greatest risk of all.