Businesses in Winnebago County have remained open despite closure orders issued by the health department related to COVID-19 restrictions.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued restrictions on businesses effective on Oct. 3 due to the continued resurgence of the virus in Region One in Illinois. The restrictions in Region One, which includes Winnebago County, included a ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants.
Further restrictions went into effect on Sunday. Those restrictions including limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer and place a limit of six people at a table when dining outdoors. Indoor dining remains prohibited. The restrictions do not apply to schools or polling places.
Region One saw double-digit COVID-19 positive test rates for nine straight days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
In Winnebago County, the seven-day test positivity rate was 13% on Oct. 23 compared to the region’s 11.9% test positivity rate. As of Oct. 23, 9,776 cases and 177 deaths have been reported in the county.
In a statement, Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia said the latest restrictions that went into effect on Sunday “spells complete devastation for the restaurant industry.”
“The extreme measures outlined by the governor’s team will result in the permanent closure of countless restaurants statewide, eliminating thousands of jobs and desolating communities inhabited by millions of residents…The IRA wants to work with the governor’s office on a pragmatic mitigation plan that supports the health and safety of our state without jeopardizing the livelihoods of the people and businesses that are cornerstones of our communities.”
In South Beloit, Neli’s Family Restaurant, Nora’s Place and J.J’s Tavern have been issued closure orders due to the businesses continuing indoor dining service.
Roscoe businesses including Ace Hardware and Firehouse Pub also have been ordered to close by the health department.
Neli’s Family Restaurant owner Zendel Imeri said in an interview with the Beloit Daily News on Sunday that he would remain open for indoor dining while still maintaining sanitation, social distancing and masking requirements.
“People think we are doing something dangerous and that’s not true,” Imeri said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our staff and customers safe. People are wearing masks and everything is getting cleaned.”
Imeri said the total loss of indoor dining would be devastating for his business.
“It feels unfair that everywhere else is open but we are being shut down,” Imeri said. “We all have bills to pay.”
Going forward, Imeri said he hopes the health department will work with restaurants for an indoor dining plan as winter approaches.
“There has to be a middle ground here,” Imeri said. “I want to be on good terms with the health department. We’re going to stay open as long as we can.”
For those who are uncomfortable or ethically against dining in, Imeri said the restaurant would continue to offer carryout and curbside pickup.
“Being on the border is another challenge for us because people can just go up to Beloit,” Imeri said. “We’re doing our part to keep our customers and staff safe while staying open.”
Imeri said the changing guidelines from the state being enforced by the health department created uncertainty.
“I have no idea what happens next,” Imeri said.
Multiple Winnebago County businesses have received their second order of closure notice, including: Hoffman House, Ref’s Bar and Grill, Baseball Tap, Golden Corral, Latham Tap West, Doc’s Diner, Neighbor’s Bar and Grill and Fozzy’s Bar and Grill, per health department enforcement data.