CHICAGO — Will and Kankakee counties have been under tighter state-imposed COVID-19 restrictions for over two weeks as of Thursday, and restaurant owners there are worried they can’t compete and won’t survive if they continue.
Restaurant owner Eddie Iljazi said he’s seen an 80 percent decline in business over the last two weeks at his Silver Dollar diner-style restaurants in Elwood, Yorkville and Momence, two of which are in Will and Kankakee counties.
Iljazi says there’s a double standard when it comes to the kinds of businesses being asked to implement protections.
“It feels like they’re picking on restaurants and bars specifically,” Iljazi said. “I don’t have anybody. Ever since they put mandates on us, our business has been down big time.”
Making up the South Suburban region in the state’s “Restore Illinois” plan, Will and Kankakee counties have been under tighter COVID-19 restrictions since August 26, after the region recorded an 8 percent positivity rate for three consecutive days.
As part of state-imposed mitigation measures, bars had to close indoor service and further restrict outdoor service.
“We can’t outrun this virus. It hasn’t gone away; we can’t pretend we can fully restore our economic vitality as long as it’s here,” Governor JB Pritzker said Thursday.
Pritzker said the South Suburban region, also known as Region 7, will remain under tighter restrictions but noted positivity rates have fallen slightly over the last week.
“If they keep up the good work, Region 7 will soon be restored to Phase 4 mitigations which will mean higher indoor capacity limits for gatherings and businesses like restaurants and bars,” Pritzker said.
Iljazi sees a double standard in the stricter rules, one in which big box stores are able to be open, but small restaurants and bars must be restricted.
“If you can go to Walmart, Home Depot, Menards. I went looking for a tent, there were 300 people inside a Menards, maybe 20 people in one aisle; but the restaurant across the street can’t have ten people, because the restaurants are the problem?” Iljazi said.
If the positivity rate averages less than or equal to 6.5 percent over a 14-day period, then Region 7 will return to the same Phase 4 mitigations as the rest of the state under the Restore Illinois plan.
“I’m hopeful that Region 7 might become a testament to the community’s ability to turn the ship around in the right direction,” Pritzker said.