Pritzker orders closure of all Illinois bars and restaurants amid coronavirus spread

Pritzker orders closure of all Illinois bars and restaurants amid coronavirus spread

The order comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Illinois continues to rise.

Under orders from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Illinois bars and restaurants will be barred from serving sit-down customers for at least two weeks.

Pritzker announced the statewide shutdown on Sunday. The ban will begin following end of business Monday and runs through March 30. Establishments will still be allowed to serve takeout via drive-thru or pickup and fulfill delivery orders.

The sweeping directive came in response to the escalating number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Illinois and across the globe. As of Monday afternoon, the Illinois Department of Health reported 105 cases across 15 of Illinois’ 102 counties: Champaign, Clinton, Cook, Cumberland, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Peoria, Sangamon, St. Clair, Whiteside, Will, Winnebago and Woodford. Twenty-nine new cases were announced Sunday and 12 more Monday.

Ohio and Massachusetts also announced mass restaurant closures.

“There are no easy decisions left to make as we address this unprecedented crisis,” Pritzker said at a news conference. “Every choice now is hard, and it comes with real consequences for our residents.”

Those who want to support the restaurant industry and affected workers can make a donation to the United States Bartender Guild’s National Charity Foundation, which is is offering emergency grants to bartenders. The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation also started a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, which funds zero-interest loans for affected businesses as well as direct aid to workers.

It remains unclear what relief, if any, will be offered from state and local governments to the affected businesses.

Independent restaurant owners in Chicago Sunday called for payroll tax relief, among other actions. “We will not survive this closure without immediate and decisive action from the government,” owners wrote in a joint letter to the governor. “We believe in prioritizing the safety of our employees and our guests. But we must call upon you today to announce immediately what you plan to do for our workers and for our small businesses.”

The Illinois Constitution provides authority for short-term state borrowing in cases of emergency, so long as that debt is repaid within one year, reading:

“State debt may be incurred by law in an amount not exceeding 15% of the State’s appropriations for that fiscal year to meet deficits caused by emergencies or failures of revenue. Such law shall provide that the debt be repaid within one year of the date it is incurred.”

This provision would allow for close to $6 billion in emergency state borrowing, and could perhaps cover emergency relief such as a commercial property tax holiday, with state borrowing used to cover for the temporary drop in local tax revenue. Commercial property tax collections in Illinois were about $8 billion in 2018, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

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