Illinois restaurant owners worried about closing for next two weeks
Illinois restaurants and bars will be closed to dine-in service starting Monday, March 16th at 9 P.M. That's according to a new mandate by Governor jJ.B. Pritzker. They'll only be able to operate by curbside pick-up and deliveries until the end of March
That's leaving a few restaurant owners wondering what this means for their future: "Potentially... Death. Honestly, I know what it takes to keep the business going financially. And to lose anything and to have things start to pile up, it feels impossible," said Amanda Bautista who owns and manages Fresh Cafe.
After over 10 years in business, Bautista is concerned about her restaurant, which was already nearly empty at lunchtime on Monday. "Carryout business will have to almost quadruple to make it okay. And if it even grows a little bit, it won't be enough to keep the groceries and labor to keep it going, let alone any of the operating expenses."
Carry-out will be their only option though. Other locally-owned businesses are already feeling that impact. Bautista said Lemon Grass which is just down the street from them had already closed for the month, "they're always busy. Always. It's definitely impacting people wanting to be out."
Another business that closed early was Black Sheep in Rock Island. Owner Shawn Cirlos said his first reaction was, "are we going to be able to keep employees paid Will the two weeks turn into four weeks or six weeks?"
Cirlos just opened another restaurant across the river, Uptown Bar & Grill. He said, "it's a terrible time to have a new business opening while coronavirus is going around. People are scared. People are staying at home. It's gonna be a day to day thing and that's all you can do."
Both Bautista and Cirlos said this time of the year is hard enough as it is coming out of winter and waiting for "patio, warm weather. So it's slow as it is. With this it'll be even worse. Bartenders, servers, and owners have to pay rent and those bills don't stop just because there are closures," said Cirlos.
To those who support local businesses, "I just want to say thank you to everyone who's been a part of our business all these years. And that we're all in this together. We're gonna do our best to make it through and be here... whenever this ends," said Bautista.
Many restaurants are still offering a take-out option until the restriction is lifted. They ask you to support them by calling ahead or even start buying gift cards now.
Illinois is one of 11 states to temporarily ban dining-in at restaurants. Illinois' governor has announced expanded unemployment funding for bar and restaurant employees who are unable to work.