Restaurants in the Illinois Metro East are taking dramatic steps to try to survive COVID-19 and the restrictive health guidelines.

The change has cost restaurant owners money at a time when sales have been way down.

“I looked back at our numbers, we’ve lost almost a quarter of a million dollars in sales,” said Renae Echholz, who owns Copper Fire Eatery and Bar in Belleville.

Echholz can sum up what the pandemic and the health restrictions have done to her business in three: “it’s killing us.”

There are two words she thinks can turn things around: “indoor-outdoor.”

Echholz plans to get rid of the big front windows and install garage doors with window panes or accordion windows.

“Which are window panes you can open one or three or four and open the entire space,” she said.

Echholz said if her restaurant is indoor-outdoor, the only two COVID-19 restrictions she’ll have to worry about are social distancing and wearing masks.

“I would be able to stay open completely inside,” she said.

Drake’s Restaurant in O’Fallon, Illinois has three walls with garage doors.

“They’ve been definitely the game changer,” said Chuck Forsythe, Drake’s manager.

When COVID restrictions closed many Metro East restaurants, Drake’s was not threatened because of its large openings.

“We opened on Sept. 21 and we have not had to close,” Forsythe said.

A manager at Overhead Door Company said they’ve installed garage doors at three Metro East restaurants since the pandemic began.