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Illinois Quad-Cities bar, restaurant owners weigh whether to defy Gov. Pritzker's shutdown order
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Illinois Quad-Cities bar, restaurant owners weigh whether to defy Gov. Pritzker's shutdown order


Theo Grevas is going to keep dine-in service going Wednesday at Theo’s Java Club in downtown Rock Island.

“We wear masks, we space every other table and clean, and clean again. Our employees, knock on wood, are fine and healthy and our customers are healthy,” Grevas said Monday afternoon.

When asked what his plan for Wednesday is, Grevas said it will be the same as when he reopened in June after voluntarily shutting down for weeks: carryout; curbside orders; and dine-in.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced new COVID-19 mitigation restrictions for Region 2 — Rock Island, Mercer and Henry counties — in the Restore Illinois plan, as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for at least the next two weeks. Restrictions include no indoor dining or service at bars and restaurants; outdoor dining with tables six-feet apart and service ending at 11 p.m. with customers seated and reservations required. Dancing or standing indoors at a bar is restricted, party buses are not allowed and meetings/social events/gatherings are limited to 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity, whichever is less.

Those mitigation efforts do not apply to schools or polling places.

“I don’t have any specific things from the (Rock Island County) Health Department requiring it," Grevas said. "We’re doing extremely well here … I hope other small businesses will do the same” and continue dine-in “as long as they’re doing what we’ve been asked to do. Mask, clean and space."

Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms and Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri encouraged people to follow mitigation efforts. Customers have reported issues with businesses through the pandemic, they said. Enforcement has been a conversation with business owners.

Acri and Thoms stressed local assistance programs continue. Moline used CARES Act funding to issue loans to businesses, and that may become a grant for the next installment. Rock Island is considering another round of assistance. Moline, East Moline and Rock Island are using Forward, a platform that matches businesses with assistance for their sector.

Mary and Ron Riley, owners of Railhouse Bar & Grill, 803 1st Ave. in Silvis, and Riley’s Roadhouse Bar & Grill, 2100 157th Ave. N in Cordova, hosted several small business owners Monday night at their Silvis bar.

The roughly hour-long conversation was about what bar and restaurant owners can do in the wake of further restrictions on their businesses by Gov. JB Pritzker.

“United we have a voice, united we might make a difference,” Mary Riley said early on during Monday night’s gathering.

The conversation seemed to focus on the fact that bar owners have to answer to state and local officials, as operators receive state and local liquor licenses. Most often a municipality’s mayor or village president also doubles as their local liquor commissioner.

And if a bar were to defy the governor’s order, they could potentially lose their liquor license and their ability to have bar slot machines in their establishments, a revenue source.

“As small business owners, we are not going to survive at this pace. It’s just not sustainable,” Riley said.

At one point, Riley asked for a show of hands of those present who plan to remain open Wednesday in defiance of Gov. Pritzker’s order. At least a dozen hands went up, including Riley’s.

“What’s the alternative?” Riley asked the crowd.

“I may go down, but I’m going to go down with a fight.”

Afterwards, bars owners were leaving their contact info on a sign-in sheet as they will be forming a Facebook group as a way to share information, and discuss the possibility of forming a group and possibly hiring an attorney to see recourse.

“We are going to try our hardest to follow the guidelines in place” such as spacing out tables six-feet apart and frequently cleaning “so that (state or local officials) can’t come in and say we’re a risk,” Riley said.

“We have to draw the line somewhere, and it is here.”

Some businesses will comply

Milltown Coffee, 3800 River Drive #2, Moline will close indoor dining, and launch an online ordering platform. Its Davenport location, 1025 Utica Ridge Court, has a drive-thru. Milltown Moline expects to feel the pinch as Western Illinois University’s Quad-Cities campus starts an extended winter break from Thanksgiving until January.

"I had kind of planned for that to happen. Without the Western Illinois students there, that’s a big part of our day throughout the day, not only there but Palmer Chiropractor College, St. Ambrose University, Scott County Community Colleges; all the local college (students) that will come and study, so that will obviously go away too,” said Cameron Cartee, one of Milltown’s owners.

Daiquiri Factory, 1809 2nd Ave., Rock Island, will close for at least two weeks. The bar has been open only on Fridays and Saturdays in recent months, said Kyle Peters, the bar's owner.

The Black Sheep and Billy Bob’s Redneck Party Bar, also in The District, have closed recently, after the city's closing time was moved from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. in the wake of deadly shootings. Plus Augustana College students have also been restricted from visiting the bar district since mid-September, and they are a strong customer base.

“Augustana has definitely been a supportive part and very important part of the District. I’ve been there 16 years and one of the main supporting beams for the survival of downtown,” Peters said.

The Daiquri Factory has been able to lean on its deck, but with colder temperatures coming as winter settles in that may not help as it did in previous months.

“I think overall the amount of people going out right now is significantly less than any other time that I’ve operated the Daiquiri Factory in general. I think as the colder weather comes, it’s going to be a harder sell for people to come inside,” Peters said.

If customers can eat inside “right across the river when it’s cold outside, or have to go to Illinois and sit outside? That’s pretty clear. It’s going to be a landslide victory for the Hawkeye State," he said. "Once people start to change their routines and patterns, it’s always hard to re-correct that and get them back."

“Besides an answer to COVID, I’m looking for hope. What is the long-term goal here? What are we going to turn downtown Rock Island into?”

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