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Daily Journal
     October 27, 2020      #27-301 KDJ

Some area bars, restaurants will stay open 

By Lee Provost

KANKAKEE — Kankakee area bars and restaurants will remain open despite Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order to stop indoor service as of 11 p.m. Friday.

Several locations contacted Friday said it will be business as usual Saturday and into next week.

In a Friday news release from Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong, the mayor wrote the city has more pressing issues to deal with than policing bars and restaurants.

In a Tuesday press conference, Pritzker said Region 7, which is comprised of Kankakee and Will counties, wouldn’t be allowed to have indoor bar and restaurant business as of Saturday and for the next 14 days due to rising COVID-19 positivity rates.

That news was met with great frustration, and many owners meet late this week with an attorney laying the groundwork for remaining open and to fight a potential legal battle, The Daily Journal has learned.

“After much consideration, I will continue to support our business owners and community to achieve a balance between public health and implications on the economy,” Wells-Armstrong stated on the city’s website. “Small businesses are the backbone of every community and forcing them into another shutdown would not only devastate the livelihood of families, but also the local economy.”

The mayor added there are more important functions of law enforcement than monitoring local businesses to see if they are following the governor’s order.

“I would prefer to have the City of Kankakee police addressing crime and protecting the city,” she said.

She added that adults have the autonomy to make decisions, and that business owners have an obligation to operate in a responsible manner, which upholds health standards.

“I will support the decision of local business owners,” Wells-Armstrong said. “... I trust that our community will come together and be mindful of these factors as we move through mitigation and navigate this pandemic.”

The village of Bradley has been more lax in dealing with this issue, allowing businesses to make their own decisions.

“We’re not the restaurateur police or the liquor establishment police,” said Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson. “We’re not going to interfere with the decisions they make. I’m glad Bourbonnais and Kankakee are coming around on this way of thinking.”

Kankakee County Health Department Administrator John Bevis said Friday the department will continue to respond to complaints regarding establishments following the COVID guidelines as put in the place by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Bevis said the health department does not have the resources to monitor each and every food-licensed business within the county.

But, he said, the more businesses and citizens adhere to guidelines, the quicker this situation goes away.

“You can be part of the solution, or you can be part of the problem,” he said.

Bourbonnais Mayor Paul Schore said enforcement of these restrictions is a health department issue.

“The village is not going to police this,” he said.

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