Lightfoot pushes Pritzker to ease restrictions as dining resumes in southern, central Illinois

Lightfoot pushes Pritzker to ease restrictions as dining resumes in southern, central Illinois

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wants Gov. J.B. Pritzker to give city residents more freedom to drink and dine out. Two other Illinois regions were just granted more liberty to do so.

If you live in Carbondale or Springfield, you can head to the local bar and restaurant. If you are in Chicago, Rockford, Peoria or Belleville, you are still eating takeout and drinking at home.

On Jan. 16, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced restrictions were being eased in two regions of central and southern Illinois because hospitalizations and positive COVID-19 test rates had fallen. The restrictions started Nov. 20 everywhere in Illinois and closed indoor service at bars and restaurants, spiking the state’s unemployment numbers.

The moves come as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wants Pritzker to ease restrictions in her city. She said Chicagoans need a night out, but so far they remain excluded.

“I am very, very focused on getting our restaurants reopened,” Lightfoot said Jan. 14. “So that’s a conversation I will have with the governor.”

Restaurants in other parts of the state are desperate for indoor dining to resume, too. Owners have had to adapt and evolve quickly, which presents unique challenges.

Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza is a Carbondale landmark, feeding generations of Southern Illinois University students. Customers have continuously been rattling the door trying to come in as the pizza parlor gets by with curbside take-out. Their dining room remains closed for now despite the eased restrictions.

“We were taken by surprise and are working toward reopening the dine-in service sooner rather than later,” said manager Blake Morrison. “We basically turned our dining room into storage, so it’s taking us some time.”

Morrison said Quatro’s is lucky, especially as another longtime downtown Carbondale venue, QQ Bubble Tea, is permanently gone and others are hurting.

The eased restrictions in central and southern Illinois limit indoor dining to tables of four for two hours and encourage only household members to dine or drink together. Establishments are limited to 25% capacity or 25 people per room. Establishments must close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Bar seating is still not allowed, with service restricted to tables and food must be available. Reservations are required, tables must be six feet apart and no congregating in indoor waiting areas is allowed.

Central Illinois counties able to dine inside are Sangamon, Mason, Logan, Brown, Schuyler, Pike, Scott, Cass, Mason, Menard, Greene, Calhoun, Macoupin, Jersey, Montgomery, Christian, Adams, Hancock. The southern Illinois counties are Marion, Wayne, Edwards, Wabash, Perry, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, White, Jackson, Alexander, Pulaski, Massac, Union, Pope, Hardin, Saline, Johnson, Williamson and Gallatin.

The Metro East is sandwiched between the two regions where restrictions were eased but is under the state’s harshest mitigations, which also close casinos and video gambling. Its seven-day averages for positive tests and ICU bed availability were both slightly above what is allowed for looser restrictions. The positive test average for the prior week stood at 8.8% on Jan. 16, with state mandates easing below 8%. Will and Kankakee counties also face that strictest level of mitigations, although the positive test rate just fell below the state threshold to 7.5%.

The IDPH said the fall restrictions were necessary as COVID-19 cases spiked across the nation. “By operating with consistent and meaningful mitigations throughout the holiday season, Illinois has saved lives, brought down community risk and set ourselves up to safely reduce these mitigations. This approach has allowed the state to be in its strongest position to combat the virus since the pandemic began, as the administration prepares to proceed with Phase 1B of Illinois’ vaccine distribution plan.”

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