UPDATED 8:25 p.m. | The owners of 12 bars in Bloomington will face possible suspension or revocation of their liquor licenses for allegedly defying the state's latest COVID restrictions.
Each of the 12 bars are accused of staying open past 11 p.m. and continuing to offer indoor service last weekend. Both actions would in violation of the state's restrictions that went into effect Nov. 4 in response to rising testing positivity rates across a 20-county region that includes McLean County.
A special liquor commission meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday to hear complaints against the following businesses:
- Cadillac Jack's
- Fat Jack's
- Six Strings
- Reality Bites
They each face two complaints. Each licensee could face suspension or revocation of their liquor license, and possible fines.
Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner, who also is the city's liquor commissioner, called the special meeting.
“We are responding to some possibly extraordinary violations of regulations that could harm the public health of the entire community,” Renner said.
Soon after the complaints were announced Tuesday, Elroy's and Reality Bites said on Facebook they would close temporarily "due to new guidelines established by the State of Illinois."
The complaints come just days after photos and videos circulated on social media purportedly showing young people packing into downtown bars over the weekend. College-aged young people, like those who frequent downtown Bloomington, are the hardest-hit age group for COVID-19 in McLean County.
Bars are not the only ones to ignore the restrictions on indoor service. Several local businesses have publicly announced plans to continue indoor service.
The McLean County Health Department says its enforcement options are limited, even if it gets complaints. It says it has "no authority to close or fine businesses for noncompliance."
The Town of Normal has sent warning letters to four businesses that are allegedly disobeying the ban on indoor service, Mayor Chris Koos told WGLT.
The county is in the middle of a second wave of COVID—even worse than the first one in September when college students returned to the community. This time, cases are spread out across many more age groups, and the local testing positivity rate has climbed even higher.