If businesses fail to comply with Phase 4 COVID-19 public health requirements, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he “will not hesitate to close them.”
CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned businesses he will not hesitate to close businesses that fail to abide by capacity requirements. According to the governor’s office, state regulators notified business owners and local authorities ahead of Fourth of July weekend of possible penalties for failing to follow public health guidance, which include possible license revocation.
Face coverings, physical distance and hand hygiene are necessary to avoid the return to the restrictions of previous phases of Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” coronavirus reopening plan. On Friday, the governor, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the heads of the state’s gambling and liquor control commissions and the president of the Illinois Restaurant Association urged business operators to comply with safety requirements of Phase 4 of the plan.
“The virus is not taking the holiday weekend off, and neither can we. Letting our guard down now would fly in the face of the progress we’ve made over many months,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We have seen that mitigation measures have worked in our state and we’ve seen too many other states rapidly lose ground in the fight against the virus.”
Recent increases in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in other states have forced new closures and a return to mitigation measures Illinois implemented months ago. In some cases, outbreaks have been driven by younger adults.
f establishments cannot abide by capacity requirements, I will not hesitate to close them to keep people safe. We must continue to take the proven steps that keep us safe: wear a face covering, watch your distance and wash your hands,” Pritzker said.
“While other parts of the country are refusing to follow the science and seeing their positivity rate and hospitalizations increase, Illinoisans have come together to keep each other safe. Let’s keep being all in for our communities.”
“Bars, by design, are social settings where people gather closely together for extended periods of time. Additionally, people often need to raise their voices or shout to be heard, which means droplets from seemingly well but infected individuals could spread further than the recommended 6 feet of distancing,” Ezike said Friday. “Over the holiday weekend, we strongly urge people to be socially responsible and avoid crowded bars and restaurants. If you do go to one of these venues, please make sure to keep distance between yourself and others and wear a face covering.”
Illinois Restaurant Association CEO and President Sam Toia said his trade group had launched a social media campaign called “Covered Faces Keep Open Places” to push patrons, staff and management to strictly follow safety guidelines during the holiday weekend.
“In recent days, we have seen cities and states nationwide slide backwards in their re-openings,” Toia said. “We cannot allow this to happen to restaurants and bars in Chicago and across Illinois.”
The Illinois Liquor Control Commission and the Illinois Gaming Board also sent notifications to local liquor control authorities and license holders encouraging them to follow the state’s public health guidance and laying out potential enforcement.
Local liquor commissioners can issue cease and desist warnings and orders based on Phase 4 safety requirements under the Illinois Liquor Control Act if they have “reason to believe that the continued operation of a particular licensed premises will immediately threaten the welfare of the community.”
The Pritzker administration provided guidance to local officials on the required steps to initiate a seven-day shutdown and hearing process under the act should bars and restaurants violate reopening requirements and offered legal assistance to local liquor commissioners.
Illinois Liquor Control Commission Director Chima Enyia said communities across the state must stay vigilant to avoid a new surge of cases.
“As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, it is crucial that we do so responsibly, ensuring our licensed liquor establishments adhere to the parameters of Illinois’ revitalization efforts,” Enyia said. “If necessary, state and local liquor authorities may take immediate action against the license of establishments found to be threatening the welfare of the community.”
Likewise, Illinois Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter notified video gambling locations, terminal operators and casinos that a failure to comply with health and safety requirements, including social distancing, face coverings and more, could lead to discipline “up to and including license revocation,” he said in a letter Thursday.
“More importantly, disregard of such preventive measures and requirements could contribute to a reassurance of COVID-19 cases in Illinois and another potential suspension of gaming operations,” Fruchter told the gambling industry operators. “That is a result nobody wants. We urge you not to let it happen.”
Business owners who choose not to follow the public health guidance will face an incremental approach, starting with education and warnings, before facing fines, suspensions or license revocation in case of repeated and egregious violations, according to the governor’s office.
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly called on everyone to abide by Phase 4 occupancy limits in bars and restaurants to continue to limit the spread of the coronavirus in Illinois.
“If you take this precious time to celebrate, please do so responsibly,” Kelly said. “Your loved ones and first responders want you to return home safely and continue to stay healthy. We can do this together.”