A central Illinois bar owner has closed his doors - for now - after receiving a cease and desist order for opening up in defiance of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's statewide stay-at-home order.
JB's Hideout in Blue Mound, located just outside of Decatur and near Springfield, opened up on Friday for what owner Jason Bliesner called an "anti-corona party."
"We have been threatened already with retaliation from our local village but until I have a court order or legal letter we will be open and the drinks will be flowing," a post on the bar's Facebook page read Friday. "It’s pretty simple. If your [sic] sick. Stay the hell home. But as this is all bs come out and get drunk with us. New delivery and ice cold."
Bliesner said he had an attorney send letters to public officials in the area earlier that week notifying them of his intent to open.
"Only one of them responded," he wrote. "The attorney of the village of blue mound saying they will notify the proper authorities if I open."
JB's Hideout remained open through weekend, with customers traveling from across the state for drinks, Bliesner said. Video showed dozens of people gathered in the bar, many without facial coverings.
"We had our best weekend that we ever had," he wrote on the bar's Facebook page.
But come Monday, Bliesner got the notice he had been waiting for - a cease and desist order from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.
The order states the bar is "unlawfully operating amidst a declared limitation on service that is necessary and proper to prevent further spreading of the COVID-19 pathogen." It ordered him to stop all "unlawful operations" immediately and says further service defying the order could result in the revocation of the bar's liquor license or "other civil or criminal violations."
Pritzker's administration recently implemented a new rule that would allow for businesses to face Class A misdemeanor charges if they open in violation of the state’s ongoing stay-at-home order.
Under the new rule, put into place by executive action on Friday, businesses could face misdemeanor charges if they do not comply with orders to remain closed. If convicted on the charges, businesses would face fines between $75 and $2,500.
Despite the order being blasted as an executive overreach by some Republican lawmakers, Pritzker insists that it’s actually less punitive than other measures that could be used as an enforcement tool.
Bliesner said he anticipated the cease and desist would come and chose not to open Monday.
"I still have a liquor license and can open the doors but I’m choosing the legal approach," he wrote. "If you read in the letter attached it says listen to governors order or license could be pulled. Our law suit will now be pending against the state. This will be a process but well worth it."
Bliesner said the response to his event was overwhelming, but acknowledged that not everyone was supportive.
"There are several people not liking what I did this weekend," he wrote. "And that’s why we live in America and can be free and do what we want."
Currently, all of Illinois will be eligible to move into Phase Three of its reopening plan by June 1, which would allow non-essential businesses, including hair salons and spas, to reopen with capacity limitations and safety procedures in place.