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Opponents in upcoming election agree, Pritzker’s prohibitions on indoor service are ‘extreme’

Illinois Restaurant Association says legal remedy 'on the table'

By Greg Bishop | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Opposing legislative candidates in a legislative district affected by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy prohibiting indoor service at restaurants agree the efforts are too extreme and more collaboration is needed.

Incumbent Woodstock Republican state Rep. Steven Reick said the Pritzker administration is freezing out local input in how to deal with the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re not being allowed to represent our districts because every time we turn around we’re getting hit with an executive order from somebody who’s giving the executive order with data that doesn’t apply or doesn’t necessarily reflect what is happening in our communities,” Reick said.

Reick’s Democratic opponent, Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager said Pritzker’s measures are extreme and he disagrees with the blanket approach.

“I would like to see a stronger, collaborative effort between the governor’s office and local units of government and local health departments,” Sager said.

There are now four regions of the state that are under stricter mitigations from the Pritzker administration prohibiting indoor service at bars and restaurants. Other regions are teetering on the 8 percent COVID-19 positivity rate the governor insists on using to trigger more mitigations.

Illinois Restaurant Association President and CEO Sam Toia said the governor needs to be more collaborative in deciding the best way to mitigate COVID-19. He suggested to WMAY that instead of there being no capacity in regions with high COVID-19 rates, there be 25 percent capacity, among other suggestions.

“Partying, that’s where the problem is,” Toia said. “Diners should be in seats. We could live with that. Close the bar, if there’s a bar there, and people have to sit in tables.”

While emphasizing restaurants should follow the governor’s rules, Toia said the rules are extreme and are devastating the industry. Asked if the association would seek legal recourse, he said “everything is on the table.”

“The executive committee at the Illinois Restaurant Association is talking about everything,” Toia said. “Again, we’re looking at our options. We have talked with a few lawyers. We have not made a decision on that yet.”

Pritzker has threatened to take the liquor and gaming licenses of businesses that violate his orders. Businesses could get fined and criminally charged for not following his emergency rules on masks and capacity limits.

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks wrote the Pritzker administration Friday asking him to adopt the county’s methodology of tabulating positive cases of COVID-19 “to prevent premature or unnecessary restrictions on businesses, and to limit restrictions only to businesses that don’t enforce mask and social distancing rules.”

“I cannot understand why small businesses carry a greater COVID-19 risk than a big-box store with hundreds upon hundreds of customers,” Franks said. “McHenry County should be allowed to pursue a less restrictive option of education, and respect punishment for those businesses that ignore the state guidelines.”

Franks urged residents to wear face coverings, wash hands, maintain six-foot distance and avoid events with crowds.

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