PRINCETON — One day before Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced changes to Phase 3 of Illinois’ reopening plan that allows businesses to open with precautions, members of the Bureau County Board met to discuss whether they could allow businesses to open on their own.
Bureau County Board Chairwoman Marshann Entwhistle is relieved over Pritzker’s recent announcement as she said what came out of Tuesday’s meeting is fear of liability if the county told business owners to reopen against Pritzker’s order.
It had been the county board’s decision to wait and see what came out of session this week. Entwhistle believes state legislators had some influence over Pritzker’s decision as many were getting pressure from their constituents, she said.
“A lot of people had gotten in touch with their representatives and senators and told them how unpleased they were with what’s going on,” she added.
Pritzker's decision to allow businesses to reopen is “long overdue,” according to Entwhistle, but she’s glad he finally made it.
“It did come as a surprise. I thought he’d stick to his guns and not let them open up,” she said.
While things won’t be back to how they were before the outbreak of COVID-19, Entwhistle said it’s something.
“If I’m going to a restaurant and have to stay six feet apart from somebody else, I don’t care. At least I can go out to eat. It gives you the opportunity to get out of the house and go out for something,” she said.
Entwhistle said she also hopes this brings back some of the jobs for people in the county and is hopeful people who had the jobs will consider going back.
Cities and villages all over the state in the next week will be forced to get creative with outdoor seating regulations, and some may be required to tweak their outdoor seating ordinances. Restaurants and bars that can offer outdoor seating will be able to go back to serving food with precautions.
Spring Valley Mayor Walt Marini on Thursday said the city council is calling a special meeting May 27 at 7 p.m. to discuss outdoor seating for restaurants.
"We already have an ordinance for outside dining, but it states no alcohol," he said. "We are inviting all the business owners to be involved so we can get their input and they can hear our thoughts also. ... We may have to tweak our ordinance to be in compliance with the governor's order."
In Princeton, Mayor Joel Quiram said the city will be creative as possible for outdoor seating.
“Once we know the specifics about the governor’s idea, we’re going to look at all our options and do whatever we can to help any Princeton restaurant that wants to expand current curbside service to outdoor service,” he said.
Bureau County is writing a letter over Peoria County's reopening plan
On another note, Bureau County had been looped into Peoria County’s sub-regional reopening plan last week, and Entwhistle confirmed this week that Bureau County was never consulted about being a part of this plan before it was publicly announced.
She had asked Bureau County State’s Attorney Geno Caffarini to write a letter stating Peoria County should never have included Bureau County without talking to them first.
“Our grants and FEMA money could have potentially been jeopardized,” she said. “The plan was presented to the governor three times, and he turned it down each time. Peoria County did it on their own. You need to consult counties when you include them, and they did not. They just went ahead and did it.”
— Shaw Media Reporter Kim Shute contributed to this report.