A cry for help: Save Illinois Restaurants

A cry for help: Save Illinois Restaurants

PLEASE NOTE;Indoor dining is now allowed at 25% at most Illinois restaurants including Chicago and Cook County. PLUS: There will be a Chicago Restaurant Week in 2021.

“You can go to a crowded store or board a crowded aircraft for a long flight — and sit next to strangers breathing the same air for hours — but you can’t sit in a socially distanced dining room. No wonder some restaurant operators are going rogue.”

…Brian Jupiter of Frontier and Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods

The clock is ticking. Time is running out for Illinois restaurants. They need a more reasonable – and immediate – path forward to save the industry.  

In Chicago alone, we have lost the following restaurants in 2019:

Lawry’s -- a Chicago favorite for years.

Lawry’s — a Chicago favorite for years.

Band of Bohemia
Barton G
Cafe Cancale
Cafe Marie-Jeanne
City Mouse
Fat Rice
La Sardine
Lawrys The Prime Rib
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
Maude’s Liquor Bar
Mortons (State Street)
Ronny’s Steakhouse
Tin Fish
Trattoria No. 10
Wells St. Market

City Mouse in normal times. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

City Mouse in normal times. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

To name a few. Others are hanging on by a thread or “temporarily” closed.

A world class culinary scene that took years to build is crumbling before are very eyes through no fault of their own.wellstnashvilleNashvillehotchicken

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The state of restaurants in Illinois

Did you know that Illinois is  one of only three states with a complete statewide shutdown of indoor dining? 

Eating and drinking places in Illinois lost 31,000 jobs in November alone,” said IRA President and CEO Sam Toia. “This is the highest rate of hospitality job loss in the entire country, and three times as many as the next closest state.

Illinois has been shut down for indoor dining for more than 75 days since October 30 – longer than any other state in the country.

Call to action

As the restaurant industry statewide suffers amid continued dining room closures due to COVID-19, the Illinois Restaurant Association and restaurant operators around the state are urgently calling upon Governor JB Pritzker to immediately allow for safe and limited indoor dining operations.                    

The IRA’s Open Indoor Dining. Save Illinois Restaurants campaign unites operators and restaurant employees in voicing their concerns directly with state leaders, including unprecedented rates of job loss, storefront closures, and rapidly increasing debt. Restaurateurs, whose businesses have been shut down for indoor service for more than two months, are imploring Governor Pritzker to allow for some indoor dining with extensive safety measures in place during ongoing mitigations.

Operators have always been among the most highly-regulated when it comes to health and safety and worked at rapid-fire pace upon COVID-19’s onset to implement and enforce enhanced protocols including PPE, social distancing, mask requirements, signage, and more.

Restaurants employ more people than any other industry in Illinois. They know how to operate safely, perhaps more than any other industry.

It is imperative that our state’s leaders take action now. 

If the state does not change course, it is estimated that 5,000 or more restaurants will close permanently – eliminating 120,000+ jobs and desolating communities in every corner of the state. 

Hopefully the state and the Illinois Restaurant Association can come up with a solution to save Illinois restaurants before it is too late.


ATTRIBUTION: Sam Toia, President and CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association

We are appreciative of the dialogue with Governor Pritzker and his team. While every step towards reopening helps, today’s announcement falls short of the restaurant industry’s critical needs and expectations. As outlined, restaurants in all of our state’s regions will remain closed for indoor dining until they reach Tier 1 — adding to growing debt, devastating job loss, and business closures. Additionally, the restaurants located in Tier 1 regions able to offer limited indoor dining can do so only at the lesser of twenty five percent capacity, or 25 total guests per room. No restaurant can break even at that volume, let alone hire back their team members. As one of the most highly regulated industries in terms of health and safety — and with enhanced measures introduced during COVID-19 — Illinois restaurants know how to protect the wellbeing of their guests and team members. They are capable of safely serving more guests than what the state will currently allow, and they need more to survive this crisis. For the sake of the nearly 100,000 restaurant industry workers who lost their jobs between February and November, we urge the state to revisit this strategy and place more faith in the industry that for so long has served as Illinois’ largest private sector employer.

The IRA will continue to press for more pragmatic reopening regulations in addition to greater support and relief for Illinois restaurants and hospitality businesses.

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Filed under: COVID-19

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