Many businesses who have been struggling since the pandemic began in March hope Illinois’ transition to Phase 4 will allow them to recover after three cash-strapped months.
“It’s pretty tough,” said Mike Hill, owner of Maguire’s Bar and Grill in downtown Bloomington. “You ought to try paying the bills. The bars still have bills whether they are open or not.”
Hill said new outdoor dining has helped with cash flow, but business hasn't been as brisk as he'd hoped.
“A lot of people are still a little afraid of the virus,” Hill said. “A lot of people haven’t been working so they don’t have extra cash. It’s kind of a trickle-down effect.”
He hopes the state’s move to allow indoor dining will provide a boost, even with limited capacity.
“I think it’s definitely going to help us,” Hill said. “It’s hot, some people don’t want to sit outside. Some people want to come inside. The video gaming should be turned back on. Some people like to watch sports on TV, it’s starting to come back. We’ll just see.”
Restaurant capacity is limited to 50 people per room, including no more than 10 per group. Tables must also be kept at least 6 feet apart. Hill said his capacity is typically 260. He has room to seat 55 diners outside under tents.
Hill said while it's been a struggle, he's never been in danger of losing the business he’s owned for 23 years. A Maguire's patron recently started a GoFundMe page for the restaurant. A link to the page on Facebook said the restaurant hasn't received any grants it applied for, and employee shifts have been limited due to the business restrictions.
Also allowed to reopen Friday are bowling alleys, such as Pheasant Lanes in Bloomington.
General manager Dave Bartlett said they're taking all sorts of precautions.
"All of our house balls that our customers would use are actually down on the lanes already, all sanitized and ready to go," he said. "And we'll only be using two lanes at a time, so as an example, if you're on Lanes 1 and 2, we'll skip Lanes 3 and 4, and the next lanes being used will be 5 and 6."
Bartlett said employees—properly masked and gloved—will sanitize bowling balls and used areas before new people are allowed in.
While businesses are eager to welcome back customers, many are still hesitant to return to normal life.
Anne Troupe of Bloomington said she just decided earlier in the day after 30 years as a medical contractor for seniors and those with disabilities, that she plans to shift to the business side because she can't stand the thought of potentially infecting someone.
“I run a risk of bringing in a contaminant that could take somebody’s life and that would haunt me,” said Troupe, adding it's not just COVID-19 she's worried about, but also the seasonal flu and tuberculosis.
She said even though he's an empty-nester, she believes it's important to set a good example for her children.
"I have to be an example to my family, practice what I preach," Troupe said.
Steve Bartley of Normal said he and his wife first want to see if there's a spike in COVID-19 cases before they consider dining inside again.
“We are very conservative so we are looking forward to it,but we are going to be behind everybody else,” Bartley said. “We’ll probably wait another two to three weeks before everybody else is doing it.”
Bartley said he misses the social aspects of being out, but he can always get out of the house by mowing the grass or taking his wife out for a drive.
Denise Garlock of Springfield said she fears if Illinois becomes lax, COVID will make a comeback.
“I feel like we are probably going to be in for another wave of the virus,” Garlock said. “Our son lives in Florida and they have seen a marked pickup with their more open (guidelines). I’ve got a feeling if we don’t be conservative, Illinois will see the same thing.”
Seniors are among the most vulnerable. Norma Watson lives at a retirement home in Bloomington. She's said she’s grateful she gets her meals there to limit her risk for exposure.
“I don’t really concentrate on it, I just know what I need to do to keep myself safe,” Watson said.
Phase 4 also allows for schools to reopen.
Harris Kahn of Bloomington is getting ready for his freshman year at Bloomington High School. He said he hopes he'll actually be in school this fall rather than trying to learn virtually as students had to do in the spring.
“It’s not really any learning, it is more of a review of things. I missed the entire last quarter (of the school year) and just didn’t learn much of anything new.”
Kahn said he looks forward to being challenged in school again and thinks the community can manage the challenge of staying safe if everyone continues to observe social distancing and wears masks.
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