(WEEK) - Business owners and their customers saw light at the end of the tunnel, as Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan moved to Phase 3 on Friday.
People dined outside, tables were farther apart than usual, and servers were wearing masks because the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and there's the risk that easing of restrictions might cause a spike in coronavirus cases.
News 25 reporters were out in many communities throughout our area Friday watching how the public and business people were adapting to the changes.
At Crusens Rt.29 in Creve Coeur, patrons were dancing and drinks were flowing. At all three Crusens locations, servers wore masks. They used disposable utensils, and color-coded markers were used to show that tables were disinfected.
Crusens customers think the transition will go smoothly.
"It's gonna get back to normal," said customer Todd Schofield.
"What that normal's gonna be, I don't know, but I think it's all gonna work out in the end. It's nice to get out, get fresh air and see people mingling and doing what they do best," Schofield said.
Crusens managers said Friday's soft opening didn't draw the crowd they expected, but they and the Joe Stamm band said they were grateful for the loyal customers and fans who support them.
"People missed each other interacting and the music and just the camaraderie that we've built up around our band and our music," said band leader Joe Stamm.
On Peoria's Riverfront, many owners said it became a bit of a mad scramble to make sure they were ready.
The owner of the Blue Duck, Kavan Shay, said he hoped they would have had a few weeks notice so they could properly plan what their outdoor seating would look like, and to gather all the necessary supplies.
"Planning for this, making all the right phone calls, dealing with local authorities to make sure we are in compliance of all of the rules, and getting everything set up to provide as safe and fun experience for everybody that comes out," said Shay.
Medici is a popular restaurant in Uptown Normal, where General Manager Joe Slane said his primary concern is people's health, but the pandemic has drastically decreased his business.
"The last several weeks or couple months, we were down to probably about 10 percent of what we normally do," said Slane.
"So we were struggling quite a bit to sustain where we were at, but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and we knew that it wouldn't last forever," he said.
"We were really looking forward to getting through that when it was safe for everyone to come back," Slane added.
While restaurants and bars were the featured attractions, Friday marked the reopening of Gold's Gyms in the area. A lot of time has been spent planning outdoor activities and one-on-one personal training because there's been no indoor group fitness activities.
Todd Grimm, owner of the Peoria and Morton Gold's locations, said they took the time to clean and redo locker room floors. There's sanitizer, and they've added spray bottles, according to Grimm.
"We're just going with the guidelines with what the government wants us to do," said Grimm.
"We got their back, basically, they've been great to us, our community has been good. We don't want to overstep our boundaries," he added.