Gov. J.B. Pritzker took action Sunday, ordering all Illinois restaurants and bars to shut down, effective March 16, until March 30. However, delivery, carry-out and curb-side pick-up will continue during the two weeks public dining rooms are closed to the public.
The announcement came on the heels of Pritzker’s well-voiced concerns that Illinois residents were not taking social distancing seriously enough. Much to the Governor’s chagrin, in the lead-up to Saint Patrick’s Day, people continued to gather in large groups in bars and restaurants in Chicago and beyond.
The decision was a logical one according to Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb of Oak Park, who is also the owner of Maya del Sol in that village.
“This was a welcomed statement and the right thing to do;” said Abu-Taleb via phone. “We cannot deny the spread of this virus. We need to eliminate exposure and protect people above everything else.”
While the state’s decision has left restaurants reeling, clear communication and creative thinking appear to be the key to enduring mandated dining room closures. Some restaurants have increased sanitation practices while others are introducing curbside service to minimize contact between people and keep fragile businesses afloat. Another has opted to shut down entirely.
All restaurant owners we spoke to are grateful for broad community support and primarily concerned about the financial well-being of their hourly employees now that such strict regulations have been put in place.
Dan and Brenna Velcich, co-owners of Burger Antics at 3740 Grand Blvd. in Brookfield, say they are prioritizing the health and safety of their customers and are committed to supporting their employees through this challenging time.
“We know our customers will be there for us when we can start serving them again,” said Dan Velcich. “But, for now, our main concern is working with our employees to help them apply for COVID-19 unemployment.”
While the Velciches have opted to close Burger Antics for the next two weeks in hopes of completing small remodeling projects and a thorough cleaning, they made it clear they are willing to readjust their approach based on the eventual length of the mandated dining room closures and financial toll it takes on their business.
“No matter what our employees may come up against, my wife and I have made ourselves available to them,” says Dan Velcich.
In North Riverside, Mother’s Day Restaurant, 8815 Cermak Road, has significantly altered their approach to serving their loyal customers.
“I am putting a smiley face on and trying to have a positive attitude,” said co-owner and manager Pete Paleothodoros, “but things are touch and go at the moment.”
The 45-year old diner has a good carry-out following, but the restaurant had to reduce staff to a just “a select few” to control costs during this shut down. Fear, uncertainty and stress are prevalent among Mother’s Day staff members, according to Paleothodoros.
The diner also shortened their hours of operation and has transitioned to a limited menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and breakfast items conducive to being carried out.
Mother’s Day is also considering ways they can support their regular customers, some of whom eat three meals a day at the diner.
“We cannot survive on take-out orders alone,” said Paleothodoros. “My advice would be for people to stop cooking and pick up dinner.”