Illinois residents venturing out for in-person dining for the first time in months can expect a whole new experience.
At Valley Lodge Tavern on Wilmette’s Central Avenue, employees greeted their customers with face masks Friday. But the restaurant’s owner, Bill Stavrou, said diners will notice more changes once they sit down on the patio.
“We’re abiding by the rules of social distancing with our tables being separated 6 or more feet,” Stavrou said.
The restaurant said the silverware comes pre-wrapped and it’s plastic. Customers will be served on a regular plate, with plastic cups for water and a paper menu to order. Meanwhile, a large bottle of hand sanitizer stands nearby.
Beyond those changes, it looks like a normal outing. For some customers, it feels familiar too.
“It looks perfectly fine to me and I’m very pleased to be here,” said customer Roger Stark. “Just thankful.”
Customer Kyle Retonda said, “It’s awesome. We haven’t been able to enjoy a moment like this in 2 months.”
Stavrou said while customers must stay outside for dining, they are allowed in the restaurant to use the bathrooms.
“We have a clear path from the patio directly to the restrooms,” he said. “Our management team inside will be enforcing or at least encouraging social distancing.”
Customers are also supposed to wear a face covering whenever they’re not eating or drinking.
“We’re going to encourage masks, of course, and we’re going to ensure that our staff has them,” Stavrou said. “Our hope is our guests do as well, just to make everyone feel comfortable.”
Stavrou hopes his team won’t need to become social distancing police, eager to continue ramping up business.
“It’s fun to get back to work and engage customers in a way that we haven’t in a long time,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of friends were the first customers Friday morning at Patti’s Sunrise Cafe in Burr Ridge.
“And we’ll be here tomorrow and probably Sunday too,” said customer Pam Church.
The village of Burr Ridge put up tents, tables and chairs in the parking lot to help restaurants expand their outdoor seating in order to comply with Gov. JB Pritzker’s Phase Three rules.
“This is gigantic for us,” said John Manderscheid, the restaurant’s owner. “It helps us out tremendously.”
They’re complying with the rules by using disposable menus and utensils, wearing masks and other safety measures.
It’s a similar scene in Glen Ellyn.
Blackberry Market was busy all morning with customers anxious for breakfast.
In Wauconda, the quarantine has already cost 2 months worth of business for the huge deck at Dock’s Bar and Grill. They’re hoping to make up for lost time, starting this weekend.
“I must have had 200 calls during the week, asking if we would be open Friday,” said owner Jeff Lencioni.