Bar Owners Vow to Defy Illinois COVID-19 Lockdown Order

Former President Barack Obama makes a campaign stop at Caffe Paradiso in Urbana, Ill., Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, where he did a campaign stop with Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, left, following his speech at the University of Illinois. (AP Photo/Sara Burnett)

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has issued an Order re-implementing restrictions on bars and restaurants in southwestern Illinois (“Region 4”) due to a rising COVID positivity rate. (Three consecutive days of positive test rates above 8%.) The Order, which went into effect yesterday, limits them to outdoor service only and imposes an 11:00 pm curfew.

Many of these establishments were only recently permitted to reopen and, heading into late fall and cooler temperatures, will likely not be able to ride out another lockdown. Some have stated they don’t intend to obey the Order.

As reported by KMOV4:

The owner of “Boogie’s Restaurant and Sports Bar” says he will most likely maintain indoor dining, despite an order from Gov. JB Pritzker not allowing it. The owner says capacity is limited and tables are properly distanced. He added that he is talking to legal experts to find out if could be penalized.

….

Don Sonnenberg has owned Boogie’s for the last 14 years. He says most of his customers are older and cannot sit in the cold. He plans to stay open for them and the employees.

“We’re losing customers, we’re losing employees,” he said. “They live day-to-day on paycheck-to-paycheck and they’re trying to raise a young family.”

That’s a price many are becoming increasingly unwilling to pay — understandably. We’ve lived with and dealt with this virus for almost 8 months. It’s not going away tomorrow and we can’t simply shut everything down and wait for it to burn out. Because that may not happen — ever. (Have you met Influenza? Shingles? The common cold?)

Moreover, given the survival rate, it’s hard to argue with those making the calculus to preserve their livelihoods. As Ben Shapiro noted earlier this morning on Twitter:

(“IFR” stands for “Infection Fatality Ratio.” Shapiro’s stats are taken straight from the CDC.)

It isn’t only Region 4 being hit with the added restrictions now. This afternoon, restrictions were announced for yet another region:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A region that encompasses central and west-central Illinois, including the capital of Springfield, became the latest Thursday to face restrictions on social interaction because of an elevated rate of positive tests for COVID-19.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s declaration for Region 3, which includes Lincoln on the east edge, Springfield, Jacksonville and west to Quincy, was the ninth of 11 COVID-19 monitoring regions to be placed under “resurgence mitigations” to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

This comes as Illinois announced its highest one-day total of reported new cases – 6,363.

Pritzker explained his rationale for the added restrictions:

“Something has got to give, and these mitigations aim to cut down on those high-risk activities until we bring down the positivity rate in an area once again …,” Pritzker said. “When every single metric in every single corner of the state is trending poorly, we have to take meaningful action to keep our people safe.”

It’s not entirely clear how indoor bar and restaurant service — particularly when capacities remain limited and appropriate spacing is maintained between tables — constitute “high-risk” activities.

Per the Chicago Tribune, Pritzker’s pronouncements on the subject may not exactly hold water:

The day after he announced increased restrictions on bars and restaurants to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Kane and DuPage counties, Gov. J.B. Pritzker doubled down on his heightened mitigation measures.

“In region 8 (Kane and DuPage counties), for example, the number one place — the number one identifiable place that people said when they were contact-traced, that they had been to either just before they got tested or after they got tested but before they got their result, was a bar or a restaurant,” he said last week at a daily COVID-19 news conference. “And that’s true across the state.”

But information made public by health departments in Kane and DuPage counties presents a more vague picture about the exposure locations identified in COVID-19 contact tracing. Local health departments have not made public information about the locations visited by those who tested positive for COVID-19, and business owners and some officials continue to question whether restrictions on restaurants and bars are targeting the right places.

Officials with both health departments say eating and drinking indoors can pose a virus risk, and they encourage residents to follow state rules and take precautions. But a Kane County Health Department spokeswoman said the agency had limited data from county contact tracing about locations, and it would be difficult to make any assumptions. The DuPage County health department did not definitively identify the top locations turning up in contact tracing.

Even Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot questioned the renewed restrictions — at least initially:

“If the governor’s order goes into effect, it’s really effectively shutting down a significant portion of our economy at a time when those same businesses are really hanging on by a thread,” she said. “So we’re going to try to continue our engagement with the governor and his team, but it’s not looking good.

But after she and Pritzker had a chat, she changed her tune.

Maybe Pritzker’s privy to data others haven’t seen — if so, it would behoove him to make that data available. Without it, some, like State Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), who has ongoing litigation regarding Pritzker’s pandemic orders (READ: ‘Americans Don’t Get Ruled’ – Illinois Judge Unloads on Pritzker’s Stay-at-Home Order), have taken a more cynical view as to his motivations:

“I believe wholeheartedly that Gov. Pritzker is trying to destroy the economy of Illinois,” said Bailey. “He’s trying to wreck it, so he can bring us to an early bankruptcy, whatever that looks like, so that he, hoping for a Biden presidency, will possibly receive a complete federal bailout, as well with many other states. We cannot let that happen.”

Perhaps he’ll make the data he’s relying on available for others to see and put the lie to such a dim view of his motivations.

In the meantime, Boogies isn’t the only establishment in the Metro East choosing to disregard the Order.

Ashley Driemeyer, owner of the “Fainting Goat” in Breese and Pocahontas, Illinois is also defying state orders.

“There is a lot on the line that people don’t realize us restaurant owners face,” she said.

How strictly the local authorities opt to enforce the new restrictions remains to be seen. We’ll keep you posted.