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With Move To Tier 2, Some Area Businesses Prepare To Reopen, Again

With Gov. JB Pritzker officially allowing Region 2 to move back to lighter COVID-19 restrictions, some businesses are now able to reopen their doors to customers--again.

The entire state moved to stringent Tier 3 mitigations on Nov. 20, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. But Regions 1, 2, and 5 in northern and central Illinois meet the positivity rate and hospital usage criteria to ease up on some of those restrictions as of Friday.

"The good news is we are trending in the right direction," Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson said on Thursday.

And that's good news for businesses like East Peoria's Par-A-Dice Hotel & Casino that closed nearly two months ago. Boyd Gaming said the business will reopen at 8 a.m. Saturday.

In addition to the casino floor, sports gambling also will be available. Patio seating and carryout is available at the Tin Lizard Bar and Grill, and Nelson's Deli will provide limited service for customers.

Capacity limits, face covering requirements for staff and customers, and social distancing protocols will remain in effect, per state guidelines.

Movie theaters can reopen with limited capacity under Tier 2, too. Morton Cinemas General Manager Amanda Sells said the continual cycle of opening and closing her business depending on the current state rules has been difficult.

"It's been rough," Sells said. "You think you're all set to be open and things like that, and then things change. And the customers get frustrated because one week, we're showing movies and the next week, we're not."

Morton Cinemas will require patrons to wear masks when they are not seated, and patrons will be socially distanced throughout the theater.

Willow Knolls 14 Theaters in Peoria also is preparing to open. It's offering discounts on tickets and concession fees to lure customers  and also plans to implement safety protocols similar to those at Morton Cinemas.

Some low-contact sports, like bowling and swimming, will be allowed to resume at the high school level. But others, like basketball, remain on hold.

The governor said Friday that indoor dining and bar service still won't be allowed under the Tier 2 limits, but he's adjusting the Restore Illinois plan to allow limited resumption of indoor service under Tier 1.

Matthew Hansen, co-owner of the Knox County Brewing Co. in Galesburg, said the Tier 2 announcement means the status quo remains for his business.

"We are not open this weekend. In fact, we probably will not be opening until the first week in February, unless the governor changes some of the restrictions," Hansen said in a Facebook message to customers.

However, Hansen said Tier 1 service will still be "exceedingly restrictive," with only 25 people maximum allowed in his business under those rules.

Currently, no region in Illinois meets that criteria. Tier 1 requires a region to report a seven-day average test positivity rate below 8% for three consecutive days, more than 20% hospital and ICU bed capacity available for three consecutive days, and no sustained increase in COVID patients for 7 days.

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