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Restaurants in Illinois prepare for second round of indoor closures

TV6 spoke with two restaurant owners about how they’re dealing with the new guidelines for their second closure this year.
Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 7:28 PM CST
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QUAD CITIES - Ill. (KWQC) - Illinois bars and restaurants are facing another round of indoor dining closures following the announcement of new mitigation efforts earlier this week. TV6 spoke with two restaurant owners about how they’re dealing with the new guidelines for their second closure this year.

In Moline, Miss Mamie’s is getting innovative.

“We’ve been very aggressive in promoting our curbside dining. We have a tent probably for the rest of the week. It’s very nice in the tent. It’s heated. It’s about 70 degrees in there,” said Michael Osborn, the owner.

The restaurant, which has been around for almost 30 years will have a drive-thru system next week with a special menu to ensure timely service as well as an in-house delivery service to Moline and Rock Island.

“Our wait staff helps with the bagging of the food for the to-go orders as well and so forth. They’re really the ones that are kind of left out in the cold. We’ve raised their wages and now we pool all tips that come in and divide them equally amongst the servers. We think it’s a sustainable model that we’ll continue to do throughout this shutdown,” he said. “It’s uncharted territory for us but we’re doing things that we think are necessary to survive at this time.”

At The Rust Belt in East Moline, Jennie’s Boxcar co-owner, Marguerite Dasso, said this shutdown is a little different.

“When we did our shut down the first time Iowa shutdown with us so carryout business was a lot better,” she said, “With Iowa being open right now we’re seeing not quite the to-go orders that we had last time which is fine and understandable but I feel like in this area a lot of owners on both sides of the river feel the frustration. We have different rules. Different regulations. We have people come here from Iowa and they are upset that they can’t sit inside because they don’t realize it’s Illinois,” Dasso said.

Jennie’s Boxcar just celebrated its first anniversary on November 15th. Although the first year came with its challenges, Dasso is hopeful for the second year.

“We wanted to have a huge party and a big celebration and we sat here to the slowest, longest day ever,” she said. “I’m really just hoping that year two is just a lot more normal. We had hit a really good patch, we had figured things out and then COVID hit. We were only open 5 months when this hit the initial time.”

She said they’re pushing for success while they work with what they have.

“We have one cook and me today and tonight the other owner will come in and it’ll be a different cook. I mean, we’re all a skeleton crew and everyone that’s there, you know, their whole heart is behind the restaurant and want it to be successful,” she said.

As for Miss Mamie’s, Osborn said they’re selling their homemade dressings and some other menu items in bulk to expand their services.

“Like I said, we’re really trying to pull out the stops and trying to come up with as many ideas as we can to get our food either into the cars or the homes of our guests. I mean obviously, they can’t come in here and dine so it’s up to us to get that food however we can in front of people,” he said.

Both owners are urging the community to support local businesses.

“I would continue to encourage people to frequent the restaurant’s curbside because if they don’t some of these restaurants will not survive,” Osborn said.

“Try to pick somewhere local. I know it’s not always convenient. Maybe it’s not as cheap as going through a drive-thru but a lot of places have curbside and if you are feeling too lazy to cook dinner consider going to a local place. Maybe it’s the place right up the road that you’ve never tried before like give them a chance. If you don’t know what to order, ask them, they’ll tell you what the best stuff is on the menu.” Dasso said, “To some people, a 60 dollar meal is nothing, it’s a drop in the hat, but for some restaurants, it’s “oh we get to pay our employees today. I mean really it’s coming down to that for a lot of places.”

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