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Restaurants defy governor’s Region 5 additional mitigation measures

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CARTERVILLE (WSIL) -- Thursday was the deadline for Illinois bars and restaurants to halt dine-in services as a way to bring down the COVID-19 positivity rate, and while the restrictions allow other services, some restaurants say it is not enough to survive.

Several restaurants in Region 5 have publicly announced they will continue to seat diners this time around, saying they have yet to recover from the previous closures.

Those establishments could face some form of penalties from the state, says Southern Illinois University Assistant Professor of Law, Sheila Simon. She says the governor's previous approach with regulations began with fines. This time he is starting with warnings.

"This statute sets up something that's specifically targeted to warn people first," explains Simon. "That you get a first warning and you get a second warning and only then do you have some of those penalties."

Region 5 mitigation measures allow for outdoor dining, carryout, curbside and delivery, but several establishments News 3 spoke with Thursday say they will not survive another round of closures, pushing them to defy the measure on indoor dining.

"We've got people here that need a paycheck, and like a lot of people, we live paycheck to paycheck," says Kevin Borum, owner of KB's BBQ in Marion. "We're not against the governor, we just have to survive and we're attempting to do that this time."

KB's BBQ is not alone, after Governor Pritzker announced mitigation efforts Monday, McLeansboro restaurant Deep South posted to Facebook, "See y'all Thursday for lunch."

"I mean you're literally picking on one of the cleanest industries," says Deep South owner Adam Little. "We go above and beyond to stay clean and sanitize, but yet you're picking on us."

With no assurance on how many weeks he would be required to close his doors, Little says Deep South will operate, business as usual for now. And he adds, it's not about trying to defy the governor, it's about trying to keep his business afloat.

"When you defy the governor, I guess you would say, there's always got to be some worry. Am I nervous? Well, of course I'm nervous, this is my livelihood," says Little. "So we roll the dice and go on about our lives and hope everything works out, or we can shut down --and we know what that's going to get us."

Little says his business, and his rural location, is already socially distanced. They have put in place all the required safety measures for indoor dining and survived the previous closure with carryout and delivery, but they do not have a drive-through to compete with the many popular fast-food chains he says are thriving under these conditions.

According to health officials, indoor dining at restaurants, gatherings at bars, and in-person learning at schools are the top three locations where the virus is spreading in southern Illinois.

Simon acknowledges that another round of mitigation measures is putting restaurants and bars in a tough financial position, but it's meant to slow the spread and get the region reopened.

"The way they make a living is being regulated in a completely unprecedented way," says Simon. "On the other hand, the restaurants long-term need is to have all of us who are customers of the restaurant be well enough to go there for either carry out, when we can't dine in, and hopefully, soon as possible, get back into the restaurants."

Mitigation efforts most visibly affect bars and restaurants, however those measures also include reductions in attendance for events, facilities and businesses.

Joe Rehana

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