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Reopening setback for local bars and restaurants threaten their survival

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PEORIA (WEEK) - If Peoria County continues to see an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the next three days, restrictions could be coming back.

Bar and restaurant owners say they may not survive if they have to go back to takeout only or limited outdoor seating.

One Peoria area bar owner wanted to stay anonymous because of the immense backlash he's received from making customers wear masks.

"When people don't want to wear a mask when they come in here, that makes me feel like they don't care about myself, my family, my business," says a Peoria bar owner.

This successful bar owner is pleading with his customers to wear a mask so he doesn't have to close down and eventually lose his business.

"It could just…it could end us"

At the press briefing Thursday, Governor Pritzker said Region 2's seven day rolling positivity rate as of Wednesday is at 4.3% compared to the statewide rate of 3.8%.

While Governor Pritzker said much of the increase is tied to those 29 and younger, a local owner says it's more than just that.

"I wouldn't just put it on the 20 to 29 year olds. I'd put it on everybody. After a couple drinks peoples inhibitions let down."

One bar goer says masking up is the only logical step.

"This is my third pandemic, living in Asia and there's just really no way around it. There's this period of denial where businesses and customers don't do it and then everybody's forced to. It's just a matter of us catching up to the reality," says Jim Ryan, a Peoria resident.

Another restaurant owner, Pat Sullivan of Kellehers Irish Pub and Eatery, says if bars get shut down again most won't make it.

"I hope they understand if they shut everything down again, they're going to hurt a lot of people," says Pat Sullivan.

When it comes to enforcing people to wear a mask, he says he can't control people.

"That's their choice. The wait staff and the cooks and all of us wear masks but you just can't control what people do," says Pat Sullivan.

IDPH Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says they're trying to keep businesses going but that may not work out.

So, that business owner struggling to stay open says he needs your help.

"It's not about the big party right now, it's about staying in business and thriving as a community."

Trisha Christakes

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