Berwyn mayor Robert Lovero says the city will not take enforcement action against Berwyn restaurants that decide to not comply with Gov. JB Pritzker’s order banning indoor dining, while Elmhurst mayor Steve Morley is urging the governor to reconsider his restrictions on local businesses.
In a letter posted Wednesday Berwyn’s Facebook page, Lovero said that the city “does not have the statutory authority to close a business based on the circumstance.” He said that the city has worked with the Berwyn Health District to issue safety guidelines and warnings to local businesses to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, but said that Berwyn police “does not have the resources to enforce the newest mitigations on restaurants.”
Stricter COVID-19 restrictions suspending indoor dining went into effect Oct. 28 for Region 10, suburban Cook County. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced the mitigations in response to rising test positivity numbers and a spike in hospital admissions in the county. It came a week after a similar indoor dining ban in Region 8, which includes DuPage and Kane counties.
Lovero said that surrounding mayors of suburban Cook County have reached out to Pritzker asking for a meeting to discuss the possibility of exempting restaurants from the most recent restrictions.
He said that as Cook County has not been able to fully establish contact tracing, the governor’s office has made the order “without having concrete data pointing directly to the food service industry, but rather general warnings such as that of the CDC stating that on-site dining both indoor and outdoor is a higher risk factor due to persons not wearing masks while consuming food and beverage.”
“Without specific information showing a direct link to rising COVID-19 numbers to restaurants, we find it unjust to local restaurants who are barely maintaining themselves open after the last shut down,” Lovero said.
Lovero, while refusing to enforce the restrictions, is urging restaurant owners to at minimum follow the IDPHs’s Phase 4 guidelines of Restore Illinois. That includes a maximum party of six people per table for indoor dining, no bar service, mandatory temperature checks for all employees and patrons and a recommendation that the restaurant capture contact information from at least one person in the seated party to assist with contact tracing.
“It will be the responsibility of the business owners to self-monitor and maintain a safe environment for their employees and patrons,” Lovero said. “The City of Berwyn will not be held liable if someone contracts COVID-19 as a result of patronizing one of these establishments.”
Morley, meanwhile, wrote a letter to Pritzker Wednesday urging the governor to reconsider the restrictions on indoor dining. Morley’s letter questioned Pritzker’s Oct. 20 COVID-19 update where the governor said that the top three places for outbreaks are in the workplace, schools, bars and restaurants.
“To date we have not been provided with data showing that restaurants are the cause of the rise in positivity rates,” Morley said in the letter. “In DuPage County, the total number of tracked outbreak cases directly linked to indoor dining is less than 1% according to DuPage County Health Department data. While this number cannot account for all COVID-19 cases or outbreaks, it is an indication that the recent rise in positivity is not strongly linked to our restaurants which have had indoor dining since June.”
Morley said that the livelihood of businesses, their owners and employees depends on Pritzker’s ability to modify the order. Without a path to indoor dining, Morley said “the damage inflicted on our community will be permanent.”
“Elmhurst businesses have spent hundreds of thousands dollar to create a safe environment for their customers,” Morley said. “Eliminating indoor dining during our cold weather season will be FATAL to many restaurants in my hometown of Elmhurst and to many across our great state. I hope you are open to compromise. Let’s work together to give small business owners a fighting chance.”