Bands playing in the parking lot. Hungry people eating meals inside. The excitement of a winning spin on a video gaming machine. And a full staff ready to cater to the needs of the customers.
Oh, what a difference a week can make.
Prior to June 26, when the state moved into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, none of this would have been possible.
“It’s been amazing,” said Craig “Woody” Wilson. “The customer flow we’ve had, our business is doing great.”
That’s a big change from March, when all but one of Wilson’s businesses, BC Wings in Decatur, were closed amid the state’s coronavirus restrictions. Wilson also is the owner of Woody’s Bar, Sliderz Bar & Grill, and Pass The Buck gaming parlor in Decatur and Long Creek, all of which have reopened, and a new BC Wings location in Bloomington that is scheduled to reopen next week.
The return of video game on Wednesday was a very welcome addition.
“It helps me get to the next step,” he said.
Wilson is quick to point out the past four months haven’t been easy.
“It was stressful,” Wilson said. “A lot more stressful than I thought it would have been.”
And while things are looking good right now, he is concerned by trends taking place in other states that are being forced to take a step back amid coronavirus spikes.
With that, he is taking every precaution possible at his businesses to see that it doesn’t happen in Illinois.
“We’re trying to really make sure our inside occupancy doesn’t get over the limit, we are sanitizing bars and poker machines. I’ve even bought these UVC ultraviolet wands to try and clean and sanitize surfaces better,” he said. He’s also made the switch to disposable tableware and glasses.
The last thing he wants to do is take a step back and, for the most part, his customers have been very understanding.
Wilson is trying to look on the bright side, viewing what has happened as a good learning experience and an opportunity to make his businesses better and help other local businesses in the process.
He has teamed up with Notorious PIG to revamp the Sliderz menu to include their meat and other products. The collaboration was born out of an agreement to let the business use the kitchen at Sliderz, which was closed at the time.
But Wilson said the community connection will go even further.
“Personally, I’m going to try and do as much buy-local as I can,” he said. “I think we all fought through this together on a local level, so every bit I can do to help them I will do, and hopefully they will do the same for me.”