February 2021 Volume 4, Issue 1
Restaurants and bars have had to adapt to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic just to stay afloat, in most cases by temporarily adjusting their business models, but in some cases ignoring the ban on indoor dining during earlier phases of Restore Illinois altogether.
The majority of restaurants shifted to offering only carryout or delivery while operating with a reduced staff and fewer hours of operation. The reduction of staff and hours is one way that many eateries could bring down overhead costs.
Early last year, when shelter in place orders were issued, many local authorities warned food/beverage establishments that violating mandates could result in fines or having operating licenses suspended. As time went by, there proved to be no enforcement of the mandates.
Jamie Emmert, owner of Pub 225, a small bar in Milledgeville, explains, “The local jurisdiction has not enforced restrictions at all. The most responsible thing to do is just shut down, but it’s also a matter of livelihood and we have done everything we can to encourage mask use, social distancing, and constant cleaning and disinfecting everything.”
Selvie Qulafi, who manages front of house operations of her family’s Dixon restaurant said, “It’s been scary. We’ve heard about other restaurants being threatened with fines if they stay open, which would hurt a lot since no one is making money right now and being fined on top of that wouldn’t be good.” She went on to explain that they’ve been able to receive government grants and low interest loans to help pay employees and cover the cost of utilities and food inventory.
Qulafi looks on the bright side of the situation saying, “With people being more open to change during this time, we’ve been able to make changes to our operations without much guest pushback.” She said that they’ve also taken advantage of the time to do some deep cleaning and implement general improvements.
One server (who did not want to be identified) of The Factory Pub ‘n Grub, said that the place had been busier than ever before, being packed from open to close during the time that all dine-in operations were prohibited. A facebook post made by The Factory Pub ‘n Grub explains that it would remain open not as a political stand but instead as an obligation to its employees and their families.
There have been several restaurants that have not survived the pandemic, such as Mr. Tequila in Dixon, Applebee’s in Sterling, and the White Pines resort.