Business owners in some Chicago suburbs are bracing for the worst as a troubling rise in coronavirus cases and positivity rates have led state officials to impose new restrictions in four different counties beginning Friday.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made the announcement Tuesday, saying that restaurants and bars in DuPage, Kane, Will and Kankakee counties will have to suspend indoor service beginning Friday. Gatherings will also be restricted to 25 people, and party buses will be banned in those communities.
In Kane and DuPage counties, the seven-day positivity rate climbed above 9% on Tuesday, with 478 new cases of the virus. In Will and Kankakee counties, the positivity rate now stands at 8.6%, with 230 new cases and three deaths reported Tuesday.
The positivity rates in those counties led to the decision to impose new coronavirus restrictions, and restaurant and bar owners are bracing for the challenges ahead.
At Cooper’s Corner in suburban Winfield, steady business was the order of the day Tuesday, but the governor’s plans for DuPage County have employees concerned.
“I was swearing when I heard it,” Shirley O’Shea said. “I was not very happy. It’s our jobs, our livelihoods. We have servers and cooks and it makes a difference.”
The owners of the restaurant had just invested in a massive air purification system, and takeout orders have picked up in recent days.
“We have a large staff size because of our restaurant,” Kevin Crawford said. “Unfortunately some of us are going to have to seek unemployment or look for unemployment, and that couldn’t at a worse time. It’s going to set us back quite a bit.”
Matt Vanini of Restaurant Solutions Incorporated says that employees will suffer greatly with the new restrictions, but did have some encouraging words for businesses that will be looking to ride through the coming challenges.
“While the interior dining is not going to be available, the need for the product will still be there,” he said. “The restaurants that have the greatest chance of survival are going to be the ones that can identify and handle their expenses for the next 90-to-120 days.”
With some outdoor dining, restaurants could make up expenses, but takeout is going to be critical as the weather turns cooler.
“From the restauranteurs’ perspective, the next three months should be about how ‘I can extend my brand into your living room,’” Vanini said. “We’re willing to order more than one time a week. We’re willing to help guests get the restaurants through the winter time with a bit of creativity.”
Vanini also recommends that business owners look to pivot their brands, and to be sure that their websites are optimized for takeout orders.