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Illinois Restaurant Association pleads with Pritzker to rethink indoor dining ban

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Restaurant owners are quickly trying to adjust under new mitigations from the Pritzker administration. But, the Illinois Restaurant Association wants the governor to meet them halfway and negotiate a different plan.

The group says 90% of restaurants across the state will stop indoor dining by Sunday. Ten of the state’s eleven emergency medical regions are under the COVID-19 mitigations. Now, restaurants are in crisis mode.

IRA President Sam Toia says 55% of Illinois operators find it unlikely their restaurants will remain open if the heightened conditions are still in place six months from now.

“The most conservative estimates say that at a minimum, a minimum of 20% of our restaurants will close down here in the state of Illinois. That means we will lose over 120,000 jobs,” Toia explained.

Several speakers in Chicago emphasized the hospitality industry is being singled out even though restaurants are heavily regulated and inspected for health and safety. Many are afraid they’ll have to close their doors for good without financial assistance from the federal government. This comes as the state can’t provide nearly enough funding to help everyone in need.

“What the governor is doing is killing us. He’s losing our jobs, we’re losing jobs. We can’t pay our rent, we can’t pay our mortgages,” said Jodi Fyfe, Founder and CEO of The Paramount Group. “We can’t pay for healthcare.”

Now, the organization is partnering with the Restaurant Law Center to craft an amicus brief to support restaurants currently challenging the Pritzker administration in court. Toia says the courts need to hear exactly how these restrictions have impacted the industry.

Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia speaks in Chicago.

Administration responds

Gov. JB Pritzker says he understands the drastic hit to their industry. However, he’s not budging on the mitigations.

“The idea that we’re gonna make the locations that are amplifying the number of cases and the spread, the transmission, of this virus – that we’re going to open those even more at this point makes no sense,” Pritzker said Friday afternoon.

Still, the restaurant association says no establishments should treat this situation as a free for all to defy the governor. They stress restaurants must follow public safety guidance.

“We will never support bad actors, and we encourage operators not to disobey public health guidelines,” emphasized Toia.

For now, Pritzker continues to stress local governments have to take this seriously and warn restaurants of penalties if they don’t follow the guidelines.

“We’re continuing to enforce it the best we can,” Pritzker said. “But, we do need the cooperation and help from local officials.”

IRA leaders plan to speak with Pritzker next week.

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Mike Miletich

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